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Clare Rose Aisling O'Connor from Feakle who will appear in Rose of Tralee International Festival on Tuesday night.

Aisling Is Ready To Bloom In Tralee

CLARE Rose, Aisling O’Connor is ready to bloom at the Rose of Tralee International Festival on Tuesday night in memory of her late parents and to acknowledge the tremendous support all the family has received from her native Feakle.
Describing the Festival “as a once in a lifetime experience”, the former gymnast and ballet dancer is hoping to glide through the famous Tralee Dome to honour her deceased parents, Pat and Denise, who she believes continue to guide her and her five brothers spiritually.
Her selection as the Clare Rose of Tralee contestant at the Inn at Dromoland proved to be poignant as it was announced in the early hours of March 12 on the date of her late father’s birthday.
In total, 21 Clare girls competed in the Clare final for the Rose of Tralee.
Boosted by a surprise party in Pepper’s Pub, Feakle recently, Ms O’Connor is very proud to represent her native, Feakle and East Clare at the Festival.
In addition to receiving countless good wishes cards, a large crowd of family and friends turned up in the midst of balloons and cakes at Pepper’s Pub with musicians.

This party was organised by Laura O’Connor, Brid Lang, Aoife Walsh, Aoife Murphy and friends. Ms O’Connor is blown away by all the support she has received from the local community.
“It was very emotional and very surreal. I walked through the door of Pepper’s thinking I was going out for one drink with my friends. One of the local women, Mags McGrath was singing my Lovely Rose of Clare as I walked in, everyone was there cheering me on.
“With my brothers winning and Harty Cup and me qualifying for the Clare Rose of Tralee is a celebration of how far we have come.
“My brothers and I feel like everyone’s children. There has been so much generosity from local businesses, clubs and local people.
The 25 year-old primary school teacher has thanked everyone in Feakle who supported her mother, Denise when her husband, Pat died in November 2018 and when the Cork native died from breast cancer in September 2021.
Cooked dinners have been left in a box outside at the main gate to the O’Connor home every day since September 2021 thanks to a parish rota.
In addition to dinners, bags of groceries, hurling gear, bags of clothes, and other items are left in this special box without any names from locals who don’t want any thanks or fanfare.

Local people have united to pay the family’s electricity bill and have opened a Post Office account for the family.
Ms O’Connor stresses the family wouldn’t be able to cope as well with life’s challenges without the tremendous support from their local community.
Acknowledging the support from her local community is something she will highlight during the Rose of Tralee Festival.
“The Rose of Tralee Festival is about celebrating what it means to be Irish. What my family has received in the last two years epotimises everything that is Irishness is in terms of generousity and community spirit.
“The Rose of Tralee is not a beauty peagant and has nothing to do with how you look. The festival celebrates being Irish and a woman, marrying what it is like to be a woman of Irish descent.
“I have already met a lot of Roses at the Killarney and Galway Races and they were all really lovely. I have heard of stories where Roses have ended up being bridesmaids at weddings of friends they made during the festival.
“The most exciting part for me is making new friendships.

“It gives a voice to women. My story means so much to me. Sharing my story and acknowledging what the parish has done and how my brothers have thrived is so important to me. We would be in a different position without a strong community behind us after what we have gone through.”

She is proud and honoured to participate in the festival in memory of her late parents and to represent Feakle on an international stage.
“There is no parish deserving to have that recognition and acknowledgement I have watched the festival since I was tiny. It is a dream come true. The experiences I have had have been like a dream.
“A lot of respect comes with the sash. For a large number of people, it is their All-Ireland final. It feels like I am a mini-celebrity for the few weeks I am wearing the sash.
Leaving for the festival tour on Friday, August 11, she will visit counties like Dublin, Wexford, Longford, Meath, and Limerick before reaching Tralee on August 18.

Trish’s Closet, Ennis has supplied Ms O’Connor with dresses and she is also being sponsored by local miliner Alish McElroy and Carrig Donn, Ennis.
“I have no shortage of dresses and will be well kitted out in Tralee. My friends have helped me to assign dresses for each event.
“The style of festival dress that is expected isn’t the kind of dress that would be lying in your wardrobe. Without the sponsorship, it would have been very expensive. Everyone has really helped me out.”
Thanks to Visit Clare, she has already enjoyed a whistle stop tour of Clare, which included activities she had never previously sampled.

Honouring her late parents has given Ms O’Connor the courage to place herself firmly in the public spotlight when she could have easily opted to remain under the radar.
“I am doing what I know they would want me to do. Keeping their spirit and story alive is so powerful and important.
“When my father died I witnessed firsthand how my mother kept going. She didn’t lie down and roll over. She was so strong for us. She was hearbroken but she still had six children.
“She still had bills to pay and had to get on with life. She went back to work as a secondary school teacher at St Michael’s Community College, Kilmihil.”


Dan Danaher

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