Orla O'Shea KILKENNY
Orla O’Shea became Rose of Tralee in 2004 representing Kilkenny, and has been the only Kilkenny Rose to win the title
I am currently working in Piltown National School, Co Kilkenny as a second class teacher. I love it! Also the principal is a Kerryman so you couldn’t go wrong! I am involved with the Pantomime Society in Kilkenny, and am on the Kilkenny Musical Society Committee (with Róisín Egenton!), and I sing with St Patrick’s Folk Choir at Mass every Sunday.
Two days after I won the Rose of Tralee I began my first teaching job in Swords, Co Dublin and loved it. I then took a career break and travelled the world with friends for a year. I was so lucky that when we went to different places, people I had met during my year as Rose were so good and looked out for us. Notably Brisbane, but especially Tom O'Keefe and the Sydney committee. My friends and I call him Uncle Tom as he was so, so good to us.
Following that I was seconded to the Education Secretariat in Archbishop’s House in Drumcondra and worked as a Diocesan Adviser for Religious Education in the Dublin Diocese. Then I fell in love with a Kilkenny man. Brian asked me to marry him, with my late Mum’s ring, in February while we were in Boston and we just booked the wedding for June 2010 in Kilkenny!
Becoming the Rose of Tralee meant the world to me, but greater than that it meant the world to my family. They were so, so proud of me. We were a family that travelled to the Rose for many years and for me to win was indescribable. It especially lit up the world of my late grandfather Con, a Kerryman to the core. Similarly it meant a great deal to Kilkenny. I recently launched a book for the Marie Keating Foundation. It is such a privilege to still be asked. I was given a Special Achievement Award in The Kilkenny Person of the Year Awards 2005 and that was amazing!
For me personally, I had an absolute ball! It gave me great confidence and self belief. I never thought I would be able to stand up and give speeches, face the different challenges each invitation brought or travel on my own, but I did. In a way I feel I won as a quiet 20-year-old girl and over the year I started to become a woman.
Favourite memory .... travelling Australia and New Zealand. How can I forget dinner with Bertie, and Cheltenham, but then I loved all the small little things in country villages, in Kerry, handing out medals to kids, visiting the old folks homes. Whenever I went anywhere people would always smile and get excited. Always. One day I heard two little girls in school say: "There's the flower teacher". I loved that. I'd go to an event and everyone would get excited and clap and smile and come up and say something nice. I couldn’t understand it in the beginning because it was just me, I hadn’t done anything. But the Rose of Tralee brings that happiness to people. So my favourite memory is the happiness it brought others and the smiles on their faces.