VOLUNTEER Mayo Rose of Tralee hope Nicole Loughlin pictured with two local children on her visit to Malawi last summer.
THE border village in Shrule just five years ago was celebrating a famous victory in the Rose of Tralee when native Maria Walsh, representing Philadelphia, was crowned the winner in the Dome in 2014.
And there could be more celebrations in the village later this month as another Shrule woman, Nicole Loughlin, has this week been backed in favourite with BoyleSports for the 2019 competition.
The 22 year old has been involved in a fundraising campaign which will see a primary school built in Malawi and says she grew up watching the Rose of Tralee with her family and can’t wait to experience it first-hand.
But things could be getting even better than taking part for the Maths and Education graduate as she was the subject of some sustained support from the west over the past few days. That has seen her odds of winning crash into 7/2 from 16/1 with BoyleSports, making her the favourite to succeed last year’s winner representing Waterford, Kirsten Kate Maher.
Lawrence Lyons, spokesperson for Boyle Sports said: “There are some very credible candidates this year and it looks like it’s going to be a very tough one to call. Mayo Rose Nicole Loughlin is the current favourite after she was backed into 7/2 from 16/1 and it seems the locals think she has what it takes to be crowned the winner.”
Nicole returned from Malawi just last month, having first visited in August of last year.
“My journey began last August where I visited Malawi to explore its beauty and volunteer in Open Arms Infant Home which caters for orphans and vulnerable children from newborn to two years old. My visit completely opened my eyes and enlightened a perspective that changed my outlook on life.
“This experience ignited a fire in me, I couldn’t simply return to my day to day life without doing something to help these wonderful people. That’s when I began to fundraise for the building of a school there to help the young people of Malawi.
“From there, my campaign ‘Lets Make it Happen’ grew rapidly, involving local schools and businesses, raising awareness to our young people and helping those less fortunate.
“Thanks to the generosity of the people in the west of Ireland, we have opened one school block with plans well underway to further develop the area.”
This year’s Rose of Tralee festival begins on Friday, August 23, and the show will be live on RTÉ television on Monday and Tuesday, August 26 and 27.