By Eileen Murphy
Well, by this time everyone knows that the New York Rose won the whole kit and kaboodle last week in Kerry (or the Kingdom, as one half of our family calls it). The aptly named Roisin Ryan Egenton was named the Rose of Tralee last Tuesday night, edging out contestants from as far away as Australia and South Africa to bring the sash home to America.
But no sooner did she de-plane at Newark Airport than she started packing for a return to Ireland.
"It’s true," she laughed during a phone call Monday evening. "I’m moving to Galway. I had originally planned to go in October, but winning the title has just moved everything up."
Roisin sounded pretty perky for someone who has had little sleep since Tuesday.
"It’s been a whirlwind," she admitted. "But it’s so exciting, and so much fun. Right after they announced my name, it was interview after interview, photographers — you name it.
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"There were even photographers waiting for me when I went to visit my family in the Aran Islands," she said wonderingly. "I don’t know how they made it out there so fast."
So, what do a Rose’s duties entail, we wondered.
"I’ll be promoting the Rose of Tralee Festival and Ireland over the coming year," she said. "I’ve already been invited to visit by the Rose committees in Dallas, South Africa and Australia. There will be personal appearances in other places as well. — I’m just waiting for it all to sink in."
Roisin entered the contest on a whim.
"I hadn’t thought about it, really," she recalled. "My cousin Mary Francis had suggested that I enter, but I didn’t take it seriously. Then one day, I saw an ad for the New York Rose Ball in the paper, and thought it sounded like fun. So I threw my hat into the ring, never imagining I’d win. And now, here I am!"
Roisin was sponsored by O’Nieal’s Restaurant and Bar in Hoboken and its sister establishment, O’Nieal’s Grand Street in Soho. She feels a special connection to the family that owns the bars.
"Kathleen Hayes, whose daughter and son-in-law own the O’Nieal’s pubs, was like a grandmother to me," she said softly. "For the talent part of the competition, I sang a verse of ‘I’ll Take you Home Again, Kathleen’ in her memory."
Roisin’s proud parents, Michael of Moylagh, Co. Meath and Katherine of Doon, Co. Limerick, plan to hold Roisin to one promise before she heads for Galway.
"She promised to have new tile put on the kitchen floor of our house," chuckled her proud father. "She said it during the interview with Marty Whelan on stage, in front of 3 million people. So I figure, she’s got to follow through."
Whatever happened to survival of the cutest?
Now that the cast of "Survivor" has gone from snacking on wriggling larv’ to chatting with Bryant Gumbel on the "Early Show" (hey, we know which one we’d pick — sorry, Bryant), we need a new TV reality show to fill out our weekly TV schedule. MTV’s "Real World: New Orleans" is like an annoying GAP ad gone terribly, terribly wrong, and CBS’s "Big Brother" is less exciting than watching the grass grow. So what’s a hip, trendy, finger-on-the-pulse, if-you’re-not-finishing-that-rat-steak-we’ll-have-some chick like us to do? Huh? HUH?
Sorry for all the drama — we’re going through some serious withdrawal here. (Deep breath.) What we actually do is keep up with the UK version of "Big Brother" via the internet, mostly to follow the fates of the Irish contestants, hunky Tom McDermott from Tyrone, and pretty, perky Anna Nolan from Crumlin. The Gaelic football-loving hunk and the lesbian ex-novice nun party girl are great ambassadors for the new Ireland, covering all the important bases, like sport, religion and boozing.
Anyway, you’ll be sorry to hear that Tom got booted this week, losing a squeaker of a vote (he got 30 percent to someone else’s 29). But don’t weep for Greencastle’s most gorgeous son. He’s now a huge celebrity in England, and, thanks to his tall, dark looks has been voted one of Europe’s sexiest Irish men, alongside studly boyos Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. He has received an avalanche of media offers, and stands to earn thousands of pounds from personal appearances and the like.
So, how has this affected the aspiring farmer, a self-described "Mammy’s boy" who’s the only son and (youngest child) in a family of eight siblings?
"It’s given me the confidence to stand up and have my own voice," he said of his television stardom. Seven older sisters, Tom? Better say what you need to say, fast.
Trumpeting Gabriel’s arrival
We hear that Gabriel Byrne, who will star in the ABC sitcom "Madigan Men" this fall, has pulled up his L.A. roots and will be splitting his time between New York and Dublin.
The Sunday Independent reports that the hunky actor has bought a house on Baggott Street in Dublin, and his children absolutely love it there. Which is fine with us, so long as we (not just us, but all his fans, OK?) get equal time here in the Big Apple. Oh, and Gabe, while you’re at it, feel free to invite your equally dreamy mates here as well — that was George Clooney you were hanging out with at the Galway Races, wasn’t it?
Binchy: putting a period to a grand career?
They say that old writers never die, they just draw a blank (or something along those lines). Which is why we’re not sure whether to take Irish novelist M’ve Binchy at her word. The popular author of "Circle of Friends," "Tara Road" and the classic "Light a Penny Candle" says that her new book, "Scarlet Feather," will be her last.
"I’m not at all a Frank Sinatra person who can be lured back," laughed the 60-year-old Binchy. We’re sure we speak for her other millions of fans when we sob, "Say it ain’t so, M’ve!"
Binchy, who will continue to write short stories, says that one reason she’s packing in the long-form novel is that today’s world is different from the one she grew up in.
"I feel terribly young, and I feel 23 in my heart," she told the New York Times.
"But I have to realize that the world has changed very much, and so have people’s dreams and aspirations.
"I think a sensible woman would realize it’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse of the young today," she said.
"It’s quite a different lifestyle. They’re so much more traveled, so much less insular."
Of course, it is Binchy’s gift for evoking a kinder, less frenetic world that has made her so popular. But after 12 novels, she’s earned a rest — as long as she keeps those short stories coming, that is.