IRISH Black Cat John O’Shea is flying the flag for a city beauty queen.
The international defender met up with Sunderland University student Talitha Orlandi as she prepares to represent Wearside at the prestigious Rose of Tralee contest.
The 21-year-old won a heat at Paddywhacks and will now take part in a regional heat in Ireland where the contest is a huge annual event.
John O’Shea said: “The Rose of Tralee is famous worldwide and given the strong connections the club has with Ireland it’s great that Sunderland is represented. Everyone at the football club wishes Talitha the very best of luck.”
Seamus Whelan, consultant general manager at Paddywhacks, said: “John’s a really nice guy and it’s great that he’s showing his support in this way. Both he and Talitha are representing Sunderland internationally.
“Anything that’s Sunderland orientated gets a lot of interest in Ireland. The club is always very supportive of the contest and gives us flags and scarves at the final. SAFC always gets a mention as do Sunderland University as the past four girls we’ve had in the contest have been from the university.”
Pharmacy student Talitha, from Mullingar, County Westmeath, competed against other students of Irish descent to represent Sunderland at the beauty pageant which takes place annually in the town of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.
The pageant is celebrated by Irish communities around the globe.
Seamus said: “Talitha’s got a keen interest in football so it was a real highlight meeting John. I think she has a great chance in this competition.”
The ultimate winner of the this year’s Rose of Tralee will go on to become an ambassador for Ireland.
Talitha, a third year pharmacy student, said: “I’ve had loads of messages of congratulations. I didn’t know what to think when I found out I’d won, I was just so excited.”
She added: “I have loved living in Sunderland. The people here are lovely and are just like the Irish. It feels homely to me.”
The Sunderland heat was sponsored by L & M Tasty Foods in Mullingar, Johnny Butler from Savantis Technology and Euroflex in Donegal
*Anyone wishing to sponsor Talitha or provide dresses for the next heat can contact Seamus on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rose of Tralee International Festival is based on the love song The Rose of Tralee, by William Mulchinock, a 19th century wealthy merchant who was in love with Mary O’Connor, his maid.
The festival as it is today stems from Tralee’s Carnival Queen, once a thriving annual town event, fallen by the wayside due to post-war emigration.
In 1957 Race Week Carnival was resurrected in Tralee that featured a Carnival Queen. A year later a group of local business people met in Harty’s Bar in Tralee and decided to revamp the carnival in a way that would regenerate the town, encourage tourism and keep the race crowd in town overnight.
The new event would be called a festival and the carnival queen contest turned into a celebration of the Rose of Tralee song.
Young women would also be sought from outside Tralee and heats were held as far away as London, Birmingham, New York and Dublin with the help of local Kerry people living abroad.