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THE DRESSES WERE ready. The escorts were ready. Dáithí Ó Sé was ready. Yes, it was the first night of the 2013 Rose of Tralee final.

Here at DailyEdge.ie, we took you through liveblogging every talent, every weeping dad and every awkward moment where Dáithí looked like he regretted everything.

It’s not over for you guys – leave a comment below, or tweet me @michfreeman or @dailyedge. Now, are you sitting comfortably?

Welcome, everyone, to the Rose of Tralee 2013 liveblog! And while Eastenders is finishing, let’s just go over what we can expect.

Tonight, 16 of the 32 Roses will be appearing on stage to have an awkward chat with Dáithí and maybe show us a talent.

We’ll also be seeing the Escort of the Year competition, in which a baffled and (probably) hungover man will be handed a tray of silverware he doesn’t know what to do with.

Naturally, the question on the nation’s lips as we wait for somebody to yodel the Rose of Tralee song is: has Dáithí Ó Sé still got his magnificent man-beard?

Well, we have photographic evidence that he was still wearing his lady-tickler as recently as Saturday:

But has he caved under the pressure? Or has the friction of cheek-kissing Rose after Rose after Rose in the past couple of days simply worn his facial follicles away? ONLY TIME (and your TV screen) WILL TELL. Stay with us.

If you’re wondering what to do with your hands during the broadcast, Sinéad Keogh had this to say earlier:

Well, that’s a pretty good idea. And may we suggest you also have a go at our ROSE OF TRALEE BINGO?

Full nerd disclosure: I’ve already printed my sheet out. You can get yours here!

AND WE ARE GO. Dáithí is riding along on some kind of mystical carriage towards the stadium, claiming to be “late”. An anonymous woman goes “LA LA LA” to the tune of the Rose of Tralee. Excitement swells in our hearts.

First up is Clare Rose Marie Donnellan. She’s got very wide eyes and makes an early play for Rose Most Able To Smile While Talking. What are you interested in, Marie?

I love the Tidy Towns.

Well, it takes all sorts. I’ve never liked litter myself.

Now she’s telling a story about recognising a bull at an agricultural show. The audience is *gripped*. We’re on the edge of our seats.

Also, when she met her escort he gave her a framed picture of a calf. It’s all cows with Marie.

SHE IS READING A POEM. The bravest of all the talents.

Oh, it’s a piece of light verse about the Rose of Tralee. “I’ve landed on my toes / For nothing could compare to becoming the Clare Rose.”

AND she ended with “There’s no place like home”! What a pro. Her parents are DEFINITELY crying right now.

Now, Deirdre Buckley of Boston and New England. First, she must go through the rite imposed on all forr’ners claiming Irish ancestry: explaining *exactly* where your relatives are from.

She’s flying through it though. Seen your tricks before, Dáithí.

Now, Monaghan’s Eleanor McQuaid. “She’s lovely!” exclaims my colleague Amy Croffey. She’s also qualified to drive heavy machinery.

Eleanor’s got an eye-watering long green dress. Which brings us to another of the evening’s important questions: when will the first person tear the long skirt off her dress to do an Irish dance? WHEN?

Eleanor is a player of shinty. Are you wondering what shinty is? So is Dáithí, which is why he’s threatening to take the bandleader’s head off with a shinty stick.

Donegal’s Catherine McCarron. And for some reason, Dáithí has just amped his Kerry accent up by about four notches. “The big thrain on the dress,” he murmurs. Is he getting competitive?

In fairness, Catherine is wearing an extremely long white and lacy dress. It’s almost… whisper it… like a wedding dress? Just us?

Maybe she’s got it on *just in case* she’s called upon. Pays to be prepared. Personally I keep a set of rings and a prepared speech in my pocket at all times – you just never know.

First sing of the night! And not coincidentally, the first tearful dad of the night. Mr McCarron is weeping while the camera mercilessly homes in on his face.

RTÉ cameramen are put through a rigorous boot camp, training them to focus on weeping dads above all else.

Dáithí has ramped his accent up AGAIN! “Who’s hayur?” he asked, his lower lip trembling. By the end of this he’s going to be unintelligible.

Longford’s Aisling Farrell is giving us a blast of the Moonlight Sonata on the piano. Let’s be honest: she’s grand and all, but it’s no Dublin Rose Hip-Hop Dance is it?

Let’s just take a moment in respect.

MOLLYMOLLOY’S FIANCÉ IS PROPOSING LIVE!

Did she just say yes or no? Oh, Daithi’s confirmed it. That was a yes! Amazing!

Full disclosure: I proposed to my girlfriend recently. Now I feel totally inferior. Should I actually have done it on live telly?

Okay, we’re now breaking for the news. So we have half an hour to ponder: did Mollymolloy *actually* say yes?

There is some controversy on Twitter:

Sarah has a point. Um, maybe it was just confusion?

Well, the stakes have well and truly been raised now. The next contestant is going to have to perform open heart surgery live on stage, or something.

Okay, while the news is letting us know what’s *actually* happening in the world, let’s take a look at some of the technicalities here. What does a Rose of Tralee actually have to be?

Well, according the official rules:

A Rose reflects the intelligence, compassion and independence of modern Irish women

but also

The qualities of a Rose are defined by the words of the song The Rose of Tralee.

Here it is for comparison:

In case you don’t have time to watch the video, we’ve prepared a bit of a translator’s guide to the Rose Of Tralee Song. The relevant bits of it, anyway. Are we ready?

She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer

She had a lovely bottom

Yet ’twas not her beauty alone that won me

But there was MORE than that, if you can believe it

Oh no, ’twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning

She also had a lovely personality

that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee

Oh, and I think her name was Mary.

The song also features this gem: “In the far fields of India, ‘mid wars dreadful thunders / Her voice was a solace and comfort to me.” What we’re taking from this is that the Rose has to have a really loud voice.

Is that why Dáithí is doing that thing with his accent? Is it a secret judging method? Maybe if they’re intimidated by his deepening brogue, the judges just cross them off.

Speaking of Dáithí, we got so excited about the live proposal that we forgot to honour this incident. Mollymolloy made him dress up in what she called “traditional Mardi Gras clothes” and twirl a hanky round his head.

Tell you what: there’s not much fazes Dáithí.

Over on Twitter, my colleague Emer McLysaght has been asking people what their Rose of Tralee talent would be.

She got some pretty good answers.

AND WE’RE BACK. Oh, hang on, we’re not. It’s Gerry Murphy presenting the weather live from the Rose of Tralee!

No idea why this is happening. We are through the Magic Door here people.

The rain “won’t dampen spirits”, Gerry says. Well, that’s a relief.

Did you know that in 1986, Charlie Haughey delivered a specially-composed poem at the Rose of Tralee final? Yes, that Charlie Haughey.

Probably wasn’t as good as the Clare Rose’s either.

As we return to the Festival Dome, the continuity announcer tells us Daithi has been “keeping the crowd warm”. Perhaps by allowing each and every one of them to nestle in his sidebeard.

Next up is Holly Nordquist of Arizona. She’ll be fighting an uphill struggle owing to not being called O’Reilly or Quinn or Donnelly.

She and her escort Dave are “great jokesters”, says Holly.  They did a choreographed dance at the Rose Ball. The camera is in Dave’s face while he awkwardly thinks about what expression a great jokester would wear.

Daithi is insisting on talking about Holly’s wardrobe malfunction. She lost her trousers while playing a dead body in Little Shop of Horrors.

“You’re dead, so it doesn’t matter where your pants are,” says Daithi. Ancient wisdom from the man.

Holly is singing a comedy song. Daithi is somewhere offstage holding his head in his hands.

“That was fantastic,” says Daithi, shamelessly.

Now for the Cork Rose, Edel Buckley. Some of you may remember Edel from this compilation of Rose quotes earlier today. She wrote in her bio:

I am treasurer of the Donoughmore Tug of War club.

So now.

Ah, this is the bit where Daithi talks to a Rose about a job that he plainly doesn’t understand. This time it’s cloud computing.

“So, what kind of data would you store?” says Daithi, his eyes blank like a doll’s eyes.

Edel had myasthenia gravis and – she says – literally could not smile for several years. She’s now at the biggest smile-a-thon in western Europe. That is genuinely heartwarming.

“I’m the anchor,” says Edel of the tug of war club. “If you’re looking for an anchor you can call me,” says Daithi.

That means we’re getting to the time of the evening when he gets tired and says things that don’t mean anything, but sound faintly smutty. Wahoo!

Christine McGrattan is going to read a sentimental poem about her grandmother’s death.

Does it really need the plaintive musical accompaniment? My heartstrings have been tugged so much, they’re sagging like old boxer elastic.

Was that our first on-stage tears? I think it was. Landmark moment.

Meanwhile, Mollymolloy’s reaction to the onstage proposal is apparently going down well:

Leitrim’s Edwina Guckian is a Sean Nós dancer. Does this mean we could get our first dancing talent? Will Daithi dance?

The bottom half of her dress looks suspiciously detachable to me.

Edwina is a Pioneer. “So, you don’t need to take a drink to enjoy life,” says Daithi. You can practically hear the sarcasm dripping from his vocal cords.

Edwina is dancing literally on top of a barrel. Did they just have a barrel lying around?

My colleague Niall Kelly is impressed:

No wonder she doesn’t drink. You’d never be able to do that.

And now she’s dancing with a brush. She’s basically got the entire contents of your granddad’s back shed up there.

Crack journalist Gavan Reilly has sniffed something out:

This goes all the way to the top. If Gav’s right, this could bring the whole Festival Dome crashing down.

They’re revealing the prize! The prize is a giant case of engraved Newbridge Silverwave. Which would definitely be too good to ever use.

I’m betting every single Rose that’s ever won has the case of cutlery sitting in her mam’s house just waiting for an occasion good enough to use it. Waiting and waiting.

Philadelphia Rose Brittany Killion is frighteningly energetic. She’s kind of shouting and keeps touching Daithi on the arm.

How much training do you think it takes to be able to smile AND shout? Brittany is evidently an elite unit. Like the Seal Team Six of Roses.

“You’re a great singer and we’re going to hear you sing,” says Daithi. Translation: Please don’t shout at me any longer.

Um, what did Brittany just do with her hand? What just happened? This is like that dream I had where people communicated in whalesong.

She’s now singing a song from The Little Mermaid.

Daithi’s congratulations to the Roses are getting less and less convincing as the evening wears on. “That was fantastic, wonderful piece, congratulations,” he says, immediately running out of adjectives.

Ottawa’s Rose Keira Kilmartin has just referred to “St Patty’s Day”. Think I saw one of the judges just tear a sheet off their clipboard and feck it in the bin.

“Could you take any more time getting your shoes ready?” asks Daithi grumpily, giving a searing insight into domestic life in the Ó Sé household.

Perth Rose Jean O’Riordan pronounces her words very carefully. Very carefully indeed.

She also said “chagrin”, but in the French way. Shag ran. Shag ran.

Bridget Haines of Darwin is talking about the weather. Does anyone want to watch the proposal again?

WHAT’S THAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU…


So what do we think? Did she say yes, or what?

For her talent, she’s going to read Daithi a bedtime story. He’s literally lying in bed.

Have the producers taken into account the fact that he’s now been presenting the Rose of Tralee for almost three hours? A bed is the last place they should put him. They need to keep him awake somehow. Maybe a set of tiny electric shocks or something.

She’s doing all the voices and everything, while Daithi lies in the bed. This is surely one of the weirdest things ever to air on national television.

Ah, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. ESCORT BOOT CAMP MONTAGE.

It’s like the Rocky training montage, but with more lads in GAA jerseys. And more shouts of “Wahey!” Irish lads love shouting “Wahey.” It’s basically their mating cry.

Training montage aside, the escorts are WAY less trained than the Roses. They’re amateurs in comparison. Look at the fear in their eyes. They’re desperately hungover and praying they don’t get called up.

Daithi has opened the envelope with the winner’s name, but it doesn’t have the winner’s name written in it. Someone on the production staff has played a cruel trick on him.

Escort of the year Johnny McGailey gives a quintessential Irish-lad acceptance speech. “There’s 31 other legends here,” he says. Pretty sure I heard someone let out a quiet, sad, “Wahey!”

Er, can we take a moment for the guy in the cowboy hat? By what nefarious corruption was he not awarded Escort Of The Year?

We don’t know how the selection works. But in a world where a guy in a cowboy hat can be passed over for some hatless Everyman from Dundalk,  something stinks.

Cormac O’Malley makes an important point re the escorts prize:

Bang on the money. A fishknife for each legend.

Here’s Sara Moffatt, talking about her teaching experience in Abu Dhabi. Just to let you know, the consensus over on our separate post about the proposal is that MollyMolloy (it sort of hurts to type that) meant to say no to her fella.

But was strong-armed into saying yes by Dáithí and the crowd.

Daithi announces that ex-Westlifer Shane Filan will be performing on tomorrow’s edition.

“We have SHANE FILAN,” he says.

There is a long, awkward silence. Finally one of the escorts (we’re guessing) shouts a subdued “Wahey”. Poignant.

DAITHI IS SPEAKING IRISH. Either that, or his tiredness is getting the better of him.

Daithi has just told South Australia Rose Louise Thompson – who grew up near him in Kerry – that he was in love with her mother. Her MOTHER.

Then he said that Mrs Thompson was “still a beautiful woman” and he would “talk to her later on”.

Mrs Thompson’s face was frozen in what can only be described as a ‘rictus’.

Right, they have two Roses left to get through, and nine minutes of screen time remaining. These are going to be some breakneck interviews. But the finish line is in sight for Dáithí, whose tongue is beginning to loll out of the side of his mouth with fatigue.

Meanwhile, the most trenchant comment yet on Kyle, the guy who proposed to MollyMolloy:

“I met your mum a few times,” says Daithi to Labrador Rose Erica Halfyard. Is there any older woman here he HASN’T put the moves on?

Erica Halfyard has revealed a TATTOO. Don’t know about you, but we’re fairly confident that is NOT the action of someone in whose eyes the truth is ever dawning. Bold.

Erica is trying to claw back points by dressing Daithi in a silly costume. Sensible, but transparent.

Erica has revealed a giant dead fish on the stage. A giant dead fish. She’s saying that Daithi has to kiss it.

HE HAS KISSED THE FISH.

I tell you what, it’s not every media professional that would just kiss a cod like it ain’t no thang. That’s the sort of quality that sorts your Dáithí Ó Sés from your Ray Shahs.

Kerry Rose Gemma Kavanagh is talking about the time she put her dog in a tuxedo. The pressure is taking its toll on us all.

Gemma is playing shamelessly to the home crowd by reciting I Am Kerry. She’s no fool.

Aidan Coughlan, however, is no Kerryman:

We’ve had 18 Roses tonight, says Daithi, adding: “The good news is, we have to do it all again tomorrow.”

You can hear the fear in his voice.

WHAT? Can this be true? When all the Roses assembled at the end…

We await confirmation.

Right, I don’t know about you, but I need a good lie down. In a darkened room. With a cold flannel ‘cross my fevered brow.

Thanks a million for joining me, and for all your comments and tweets. The excellent Emer McLysaght will be taking over for the second half tomorrow from 8pm – join us then for the grand finalé!

Til then, I’m off to dream of kissing cod.

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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