The Rose of Tralee Festival begins on Friday and Kildare escort Will McGrath knows exactly what to expect.
Two years ago, the Newbridge man attended the festival as escort to New Orleans Rose Lizzy Wales.
Speaking to the Leinster Leader ahead of his trip to Tralee, Will explained that he first became involved when he saw someone handing out leaflets about Rose of Tralee escorts in Newbridge. “I just took one. I’d never even thought about it before.”
He submitted an application form and was called for interview and then a selection night, where he was chosen as Kildare escort.
He says that experience has “definitely helped” him this year and the 24-year-old will have already been familiar with the recent escort boot camp held in Kerry.
“It’s a bonding session for all the escorts. It’s good for getting to know everyone else. They’re all really great lads.”
The 32 escorts climbed Carrantuohill and went camping on Valentia Island. They also had a crash-course in etiquette so they will all be perfect gentlemen during the festival.
Will won’t know know who he will be escorting until Friday, when the escorts will all be in Tralee, but before the Roses arrive. He explained that the escorts and Roses are matched up based on personalities and interests.
“The escorts and the Roses open up an envelope at the same time to find out who we’ve been matched with.” They might then speak on the phone before the Roses arrive.
Will is already familiar with some of the Roses, having attended the Killarney Races with a few of them last month.
“I escorted Dervla Kenny, the Mayo Rose. She’s Enda Kenny’s niece and she’s a really nice girl.”
When he is not busy studying graphic design in Waterford or working in Kildare Village, Will can be found performing magic tricks or playing the drums or other percussion instruments in bands.
An active member of the Society of Irish Magicians, magic is his number one passion. “I’m a street magician. I perform a lot in pubs and clubs.” Will has also performed at Oxegen for the likes of Dave Grohl and the Arctic Monkeys.
As for the drumming, while it may sometimes annoy his parents, he says it “takes the stress out of life” and likes to think of the drummer as the “secret asset of the band”.
If things work out, Will could end up as escort to Rathcoffey’s Sheila McAndrew, who is this year’s Darwin Rose. But Will, with his positive attitude towards seemingly everything in life, will be delighted with whichever Rose is lucky enough to be paired with him.
- Liam Godinho