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WELCOME, EVERYBODY. It’s that time you’ve been waiting for for months since you turned on the TV after dinner – the 2012 Rose of Tralee finals.

Tonight the first 18 Roses will be taking the stage for a wee chat with Dáithí Ó Sé and to demonstrate their talents. We’ll be following all the action as it happens.

Join in the conversation! Leave a comment, tweet us @dailyedge, or email michael@thejournal.ie.

Welcome, everybody! Hope you’re sitting comfortably. I’ve just eaten a serving of extremely spicy noodles, so my throat is stinging and my eyes are streaming – in other words, we’re in perfect shape for watching the Rose of Tralee.

RTÉ will start showing the Roses just as soon as they finish this documentary. About, er, Tralee.

Hope you’ve all printed out your Rose of Tralee bingo cards. If not, don’t worry – you can just, you know, look at it on your screen.

OK, RTÉ are engrossed in yoghurt ads, so let’s get this out of the way:

YouTube/AlexDeLarge103

We may need to refer back to it later.

WE ARE LIVE FROM KERRY.  There’s a mysterious blue woman doing her makeup. Someone’s going “la la la”. It must be STARTING!

Our first glimpse of the Roses in the front row. They’re all clapping like penguins. And Dáithí has ALREADY mentioned the fact that he’s married to a Rose. We’re in for a classic night.

First Rose, Aisling Baker from Westmeath, is UP. Why do they make them walk on stage to that ridiculous music? It’s like something from Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

Aisling has a great laugh. Her mouth opens up like a snake about to swallow a deer whole, but in a friendly way.

OK, Daithi has called Aisling’s boyfriend a “stalker”. And it’s only the first Rose. Pace yourself, Daithi.

Aisling’s singing Elton John’s Your Song. She’s… well, she’s a teeny bit out of tune. There’s a guy with a harmonica. Basically, it’s like early Bob Dylan.

Number 2. Darwin Rose Sheila McAndrew. She owns a cleaning company. Doesn’t she look clean? “They call me Monica off Friends,” she tells Daithí.

Sheila has just told an anecdote about having her teeth cleaned. An early contender for “most pointless story of the evening”. But the night is young.

Up now: New Orleans Rose Lisa Brady. An early leader in the all-important area of dimples.

OK, that’s the first mention of the escorts this evening. Let’s take a look at the escorts, shall we? They’re ALL THE SAME. Possibly genetically cloned. Or some kind of EscortBot2000.

Lisa is teaching Daithi to ‘zumba’. Daithi’s at it like a master. This man has taken classes. He’s shimmied before. His wife is a lucky woman.

And we’re off to the first commercial break. Phew. Let’s take stock.

While the ads are on: are you wondering what that mysterious ‘la la la’ theme song is? Well, probably not, because it is of course the classic and teeth-numbingly sentimental auld Irish ballad The Rose Of Tralee. Listen and weep:

YouTube/057marino

“I strayed with my love by the pure crystal fountain, That stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee.” Fun fact: it’s now a multi-storey car park.

Now it’s Erin Kelly, the California Rose. A qualified neurolinguistic programmer, but she’s telling a story about a monkey in a nappy.

Neurolinguistic programming helped Erin give up French fries, her “favourite food in the world”. It worked so well, they now make her PHYSICALLY SICK. This is surely a diabolical power. What else could she do? What’s she doing to Daithi right now?

Erin’s Fun Fact: She’s terrified of B&Bs. Well, who could blame her, really? The decor is always terrible.

Up now, Germany’s Bronwyn Sass. Not to give too much away, but I’m holding Bronwyn in TheJournal.ie’s office sweepstake. So let’s all root for Bronwyn, OK?

From Bronwyn’s official bio: she loves “nibbling on cheese and strawberries”. Yep, I know a winner when I see one.

HANG ON EVERYBODY. They’ve just showed Boris Yeltsin in the audience. Well, if he was going to reappear anywhere, it probably would be here.

Daithi’s telling her her mother is gorgeous. Rein it in, Daithi. We’ve a long way to go yet. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Avaleigh’s telling a boring story, so let’s take a minute. Why should anyone enter the Rose of Tralee? Well, this promo video will tell you.

According to 2011 Rose Tara talbot: “Every girl should enter the Rose of Tralee. No matter how far you reach in the process, it’ll be the greatest thing you ever do.” Did you hear that, women? THE GREATEST THING YOU EVER DO.

Take that, cancer-curing, new-species-discovering, world-peace-bringing female diplomats. You’re dead to us.

RTE has now broken with the main business of the Rose of Tralee to go to some other nonsense. For anyone who doesn’t want to watch the news, we suggest you turn up the techno remix of ‘Rose of Tralee’ that backs that last video and listen to it on repeat for the next 30 minutes.

So let’s go over a little background while the news is on. Is anyone left in any doubt over the cultural significance of the Rose of Tralee? If so, here’s the clincher. Like all things of worth in this world, it’s got its own Downfall parody. Which contains mildly NSFW language, if indeed there is anyone else out there still at work.

Anyone?

I should note of course that my esteemed colleague Aoife Barry is still at work, pumping out the regular news over on TheJournal.ie. It’s just emerged that she hasn’t even entered the Rose of Tralee sweepstake, so certainly won’t be winning the grand prize.

And by “grand prize”, I do of course mean “chipped coffee mug with mystery stain”.

If anyone out there, by the way, is worried that the Rose of Tralee is a tawdry process that demeans and cheapens everyone involved – well, perhaps it does.

But look on the bright side – at least it’s not the ’Miss Dairy Cow’ competition that took place in Shanxi, China at the weekend:

(ChinaFotoPress/Photocome/Press Association Images)

There are a number of people over on Twitter wondering why so many of this year’s Roses seem to be getting away without performing their ‘talents’. And to be frank, we’re a little baffled and hurt about this too.

So perhaps it’s time to console ourselves with a look back at, oh, only THE BEST Rose of Tralee talent EVER. Yes, it’s the Dublin Rose doing that dance. We find that the optimum viewing position is behind the sofa, through your fingers:

It’s not long now until we return to the Rose Dome for an update on Daithi’s sweat situation. Meanwhile, here’s a suggestion which I for one think is worth serious consideration:

Lots of people ask me* “Michael, what does it take to become a Rose of Tralee?” And naturally, I refer them immediately to the official competition rules. Which state unequivocally that “the qualities of a Rose are defined by the words of the song Rose of Tralee”.

So let’s take a look at what they are, shall we?

* Nobody has ever asked me this.

Those all-important lyrics:

“She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,
Yet ’twas not her beauty alone that won me.
Oh no, ’twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning
That made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.”

And that’s not all:

“In the far fields of India ‘mid war’s dreadful thunders,
Her voice was solace and comfort to me.”

So basically what the judges are going to be looking for tonight is somebody (a) with truth in her eyes ever dawning, and (b) with a voice so loud that even somebody in the middle of another continent surrounded by heavy gunfire can hear her.

Simple.

AND WE’RE BACK. Those bizarre musical noises mean we’re facing into another two hours of Daithi and the Roses. Lord help us.

Dervla Kenny of Mayo on stage now. She’s Enda Kenny’s niece, you know. Will Daithi mention it?

Dervla shamelessly plays to the crowd by namechecking her 89-year-old granny. She’s clearly learned a few lessons from her old Uncle Enda. Somebody pass her a baby to kiss, STAT.

I have to say, the absence of talents is becoming a serious problem. What’s a Rose of Tralee contest if they aren’t forced to undergo humiliating Trial By Jig? Anyway, Margaret Rose Keating of Chicago is up now. Maybe she’ll be the one to break out the moves.

“What’s a BFA?” Daithi asks Margaret. He knows FULL WELL that it’s a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He’s just asking for our benefit. He’s selfless like that.

It’s emerged that her escort is called Larry Barry. We can only imagine how her face must have fallen when she opened the envelope.

Actually, we can tell exactly what happened to her face, because it’s probably on this video of all the Roses opening their envelopes. (Around 3.50)

I knew it. Margaret’s singing a song. AND playing the guitar. She’s got pluck. And vim.

There’s the obligatory shot of the other Roses bobbing their heads appreciatively. What do we think the collective noun for a group of Roses is? A gaggle? A squeal? An assault?

Ah, they’re ramping up the talents now. Alana’s singing a Maori song. They must have got all the boring Roses out of the way early.

Although, someone’s accidentally turned the echo effect on her voice all the way up to “Grand Canyon”. Is that intentional?

“That was great,” says Daithi, sounding completely convincing.

Now it’s Texas Rose Kelly Gaetano. She’s given herself a serious boost in this competition by having Real Irish Red Hair. Merciless. It’s a Rose-eat-Rose world out there, and no quarter is given.

Hang on. Kelly has just revealed that the Rose she’s sharing a room with uses her toothbrush. I knew these Roses would stoop low in their psychological warfare, but… wow. Brutal.

Line dancing is happening. Kelly has a smile glued to her face. Daithi’s wearing his patented Baffled But A Good Sport look while bouncing awkwardly. This is what televisions were made for.

Rose of Tralee trivia #47: Did you know shopping channel QVC does an annual Rose-themed show? They sell Celtic Thunder CDs. And judging by this extract from last year’s extravaganza they also appear to have secured a cameo from Bruce Willis, doing a rather nice baritone. Well played, QVC. Well played.

Call me slow, but I’ve just noticed that each Rose hopeful gets a montage where she “grows up” in photographs, from baby to adult. Amazing. Are you watching, organisers of the next general election?

Kilkenny’s Aoibhin Murphy is up now and Daithi is pretending not to know what Classics is.

Daithi has commented on her mother’s looks again. Now he’s asking “everyone in the audience to close their eyes”.

OH MY GOD SHE’S DOING A DOLPHIN IMPRESSION.

That’s it. This is over. Kilkenny has surely won it. How can anybody top that? A DOLPHIN.

Now she’s doing an Oscar Wilde monologue, which is a bit annoying, but still.

Eleanor raises a valid point:

Truth is, Eleanor, we just didn’t see it coming. How could we? I’m still reeling here.

Melbourne’s Claire Lynch up now. Surely crushed after AquaticMammalGate, as future Rose analysts will surely come to know it. But she’s putting on a brave face talking about Daniel O’Donnell.

She loves him, apparently. It’s an extreme gamble – but will it be enough?

Ah, we’re at that time in the evening. The moment when a Rose asks Daithi to “help her out of her dress”, and he gets to make a louche joke. This is what Daithi lives for.

Now it’s Elizabeth Spellman from Philadelphia, who judging by her GrowthMontage (TM) has had exactly the same expression on her face since the age of six months.

Still rocking it right there on stage. Keep the faith, Elizabeth. Or should that be ‘keep the face’? Either way.

Daithi’s sweat is getting a bit of a following on Twitter. Can we get it trending? #DAITHISWEAT.

Sydney Rose Sophia Fitzgerald is UP. She enjoys kung fu and has just told Daithi that he’s “over the hill”. Also, her father looks like a big smiley egg.

How’s that Rose Bingo going? The crosses just aren’t falling right for me. Though the sheet was written by Sinead O’Carroll, who’ll be liveblogging tomorrow night, so I can’t help but suspect she’s skewed it in her favour.

“Clap your hands if you know the words,” says Sophia as she kicks off Whiskey In The Jar. That doesn’t even make sense. We are on some next-level stuff right here.

Now we go to Escort Boot Camp. Where escorts are put through hell. Forged in the searing fires of Chivalry, Decency, and Being The Sort Of Lad You Could Take Home To Your Granny.

And it’s the Escort of the Year contest. Who will win? Who will lose? Can anybody tell them apart?

The Mayo Rose’s escort has claimed Escort of the Year. He looks baffled. Probably wondering what this 44-piece case of Newbridge Silverware cutlery will fetch on eBay.

In case you were wondering what the lady from Newbridge Silverware thinks of the contest so far, it’s “absolutely super”.

He’s “still in shock” after his win. Still, it’s a game of two halves. Fair play to all the lads at the end of the day.

Another commercial break. Now, some of you may be harbouring the illusion that the Rose of Tralee isn’t what it was back in the day. Well, to test that idea, we can bring you this incredible archive footage of the 1995 Rose of Tralee being towed through the Tralee racecourse from the back of a family saloon:

Pretty stirring stuff, we think you’ll agree. Meanwhile, Orna Cunningham has nailed the Escort of the Year situation:

Luxembourg Rose Nicola McEvoy takes the stage. Possibly the biggest “Whoo” from the audience yet. And this is in an evening of big “Whoos”. They love to Whoo, do the Roses. It’s sort of their version of dolphin song.

A male relative of Nicola appears to have prepared a voodoo doll of her. Meanwhile, she’s talking about giving her teddy bears exams. Takes all sorts, eh?

GORGEOUS, ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS says Daithi, deploying his third adjective of the evening.

Máire Dineen of Toronto up now. She’s brought a pin given to her grandfather “for his services to the Rose of Tralee”. Is that officially recognised by the Defence Forces?

“I’m on the merchandise planning and allocation team,” says Maire of her job in fashion. Daithi’s eyelids visibly drooping. Pretty sure I just saw one of his eyeballs spin around to reveal a picture of a pint.

OK, so Briana Apgar just almost walked onto the stage through the wrong entrance. This is the kind of thing that makes and breaks a Rose. She’s trying desperately to claw it back by talking about weightlifting.

“Ladies and gentleman… singing… singing…” mutters Daithi wildly as he struggles to introduce Briana’s song. I know exactly how he feels.

Our FINAL ROSE OF THE EVENING. Kerry’s Ann-Marie Hayes. Her and Daithi are having a totally natural, non-awkward conversation about her medical career. It’s almost like the cameras aren’t even there, to be honest.

Ann-Marie becomes the first Rose of the evening to wuss out of humiliating herself in a song-and-dance routine by reading a poem. Is this the only event in the world in which young women in ballgowns read dubious poetry to a television audience of millions? And if not, shouldn’t it be?

Well, that’s all folks. It’s all over for tonight, and it only remains to come back and do it all again tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Or even more!

Finally, as if you needed any further persuading that my colleague O’Carroll shamelessly bent the bingo to her own ends:

Just before we go – a late-breaking tweet from one Rose’s sister makes a bid for Most Enthusiastic Social Media Intervention:

And we’ll be back at 8pm tomorrow evening with a fresh crop of Roses, and possibly even some new jokes. Hopefully Daithi will have had a chance to towel himself down too. Til then!

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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