The last time Kelly O'Shea was in Ireland she was eleven years old. Ten years on she is back and this time she was representing Queensland in the 50th anniversary of the Rose of Tralee international festival. Kelly was not just representing Queensland though, she was also flying the flag for Drumcalpin near Butlersbridge where her grandmother, Mary Armstrong, was from. "My family went up to Drumcalpin last week while I was on the Rose tour. I haven't met the family up there yet but they have claimed me."
When asked about what people at home thought of her participation in a contest, which could be hard to explain to people who have never heard of it, she responded: "People in Queensland have very high respect for the Rose of Tralee. I got a huge amount of support, they really got behind me."
Kelly has enjoyed her experience in Ireland hugely, with the highlight being the first Rose Ball the weekend before the televised selections. "The ball was breathtaking, when I walked through the door I was just astounded. The lighting, the amount of people, it was just beautiful."
Kelly opened the final night of the festival on RTÉ last Wednesday and she performed Glenn Hansard's 'Fallin' Slowly' to rapturous applause from the live audience. Her message to everyone back in Cavan was simple and heartfelt: "Thank you very much for your support and up Cavan!"
The Queensland Rose was joined in her representation of Cavan abroad by two O'Reillys. Luxembourg Rose, Siobhan O'Reilly's father, Conor O'Reilly, hails from Seefin Cross, Bailieborough while Tom O'Reilly originally from Shercock is the father of the New Jersey Rose, Genevieve. The two girls as well as sharing a surname and having a Cavan man for a father discovered, while in Tralee, that they are probably third cousins. Siobhan's father Conor explained the connection: "Siobhan's great-great-grandfather and Genevieve's great-great-grandfather were brothers. That's what we believe the connection is and there are birth certs going back almost to that stage proving it."
The Cavan connection is clearly very important to both families. Siobhan still visits her grandmother, Monica O'Reilly, in Seefin whenever she can. Conor O'Reilly said: I'm very proud to be from Cavan and have Cavan roots."
Tom O'Reilly is equally proud of his origins and was once a county player. "I was captain of the county under 16s and minors and I played for Cavan in '69, 70 and 71."
Ironically it was playing gaelic football that led him from Ireland as he spend several summers there playing before settling permanently in the States. It was obviously a source of great pride to be able to come back with his family to watch Genevieve represent New Jersey in the Rose of Tralee. A party was held for Genevieve in Frank Burn's pub in Shercock before a crowd of 53 supporters travelled down to Tralee to join the festivities. Tom had a message for everyone lending their support from Shercock and Cavan: "We love you guys and thank you all for your support, it was absolutely incredible."