*Aisling O’Connor. 

FEAKLE’S Aisling O’Connor will take to the stage in the Rose of Tralee International Festival this week.

Twenty five year old Aisling will fly the county flag at the Kerry Sports Academy at the Munster Technological University (MTU) for the five-day Rose of Tralee International Festival, which kicks off on Friday and remains as one of Ireland’s oldest and largest festivals.

For the first time, the Rose of Tralee will have co-presenters, Daithí Ó Sé’s twelfth time hosting the festival sees him joined by Kathryn Thomas. Thirty two Roses will take part this year from across Ireland, Australia, the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

A primary school teacher, Aisling is returning to East Clare from September having taught in Crumlin since graduating from Mary Immaculate College in 2020.

Speaking to The Clare Echo in her final interview before the start of the festival, Aisling admitted that the week on tour in advance has been “much more full on than I expected. We’ve been on the go every hour with different experiences at the different locations but it has been fantastic getting to know all the Roses”.

Whether Aisling will be on stage Monday or Tuesday has yet to be revealed. “My preference would be to be on Monday night to get it out of the way but my family and the whole parish have tickets for Tuesday,” she said. RTÉ decide which Roses give a performance and it is expected that Aisling will be doing ballet on stage if given the go-ahead from the State broadcaster.

She is the eldest of six children and an older sibling to Patrick, Eoin, Liam, Ronan and Oisin all of whom will be part of the Feakle faithful travelling to Kerry over the coming days. The O’Connor family have been through their share of hardship following the deaths of their parents, Pat and Denise five and two years ago respectively.

Support from the people of Feakle has been greatly appreciated by Aisling and her brothers, the acts of kindness shown by the community include cooking dinners for them, doing the grocery shopping and always being available on the other end of the phone . “We’ve got unbelievable support from the parish since Dad passed five years ago and two years ago since Mom passed they have really taken us under their wings, this has been no different and they organised a surprise party for me in Pepper’s on the Friday before I left”.

Support for Aisling O’Connor is very strong in her native Feakle. Photograph: Ruth Griffin.

Partaking in the Rose of Travel has been given a lift to the entire family, Aisling said. “It would mean everything for me to win especially seeing as it has been a tough couple of years, it feels like a light at the end of the tunnel moment, it would go deeper for my parish, family and county if I was to win”.

“It has been very emotional,” she said of the experience. “But everybody is emotional, I don’t think that is unique to me, we’re tired from all the going but it is emotional, for me I guess it is heightened by the fact that I won’t have my parents there with me on the night but I know that they will be looking down”.

Her younger brothers won’t get to sit in the designated areas but they have sorted the clothing and will be swapping the Feakle gear for the chinos and shirts.

Indeed success on the big day is not alien to the O’Connors with Ronan captaining St Joseph’s Tulla to win their first ever Dr Harty Cup last year while Oisin was also part of the panel. “The Harty Cup was such a special experience for our family but also the parish and East Clare, it meant the world to us to have something to celebrate at the time, Ronan was instrumental in the success and Oisin was involved and did his bit”.

Clare’s contingent in the Festival also sees Cooraclare’s Damien Burke and Malachy Lynch of Ballyea lining out as escorts.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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