Carraig Donn sat down with this year’s Mayo Rose, Sandra Ganley, to talk about her road to the Rose of Tralee, representing Mayo and her style influences and favourite trends.
Photography by Magda Horodecka
Carraig Donn: Hi Sandra! Let’s start by getting a bit of background about yourself.
Sandra Ganley: “I’m from Ballaghaderreen - the Mayo side! That’s where I grew up and did my Leaving Cert. Then I went on to study in the University of Limerick and did a Bachelor of Arts in Irish Music & Dance. Growing up I was always a dancer and into Irish dancing. After that I did my masters in primary school teaching but at the moment I’m not working in that area as my time is taken up with running my own dance school.”
CD: Is that in Ballaghaderreen?
SG: “It’s all over the country so currently I’m hitting about 9 counties and had five hundred kids join in the first year. It’s the only jiving school for kids in Ireland and I run it all myself. I’m my own boss which thankfully allows me to fit in everything required for The Rose of Tralee.”
CD: How did entering The Rose of Tralee come about for you?
SG: “It was always something that was in my head growing up. There’s actually a photo of me when I was eight years old dressed up as a Rose! Then people were on to me again when I turned eighteen to go for it but I decided I would rather have my degrees got and be working first. Then I was asked again in March this year and decided to go for it. There was nineteen of us in the Mayo selection and we went through group interviews and single interviews with the judges. Then we had the big night in Claremorris where we each got on stage and did our party piece. I was delighted to be picked and I’m so glad I went for it. I think it’s a good time in my life for me now as I’m not too busy and have a handle on things.”
CD: What does it mean to you to be representing Mayo?
SG: “It means a lot. As well as representing Mayo I’m representing Connaught and to represent both is a huge deal for me. I’m a staunch Mayo GAA woman and always have been! It’s been great to go around Mayo to towns I might never have been to or get the chance to visit that often. Even for me to get all the way over to Achill or Belmullet is over an hour so it’s great to get around and see them all as Mayo has so much to offer. Maria Walsh has done so much for Mayo even though she was the Philadelphia Rose and even if I don’t go on to make the televised part of the competition or win, I hope I can represent Mayo as well as she did.”
CD: What’s been the best thing so far about being the Mayo Rose?
SG: “Every day there’s something different to do. Of course going round to boutiques and picking dresses is great and obviously I enjoy that but getting to visit places I might not have been to and meeting new people has been the best part. I get to go to primary schools, nursing homes and the children’s ward in Mayo General Hospital so little things like that that I wouldn’t have got to do before has been really good. So even making one person smile or a sick child smile for ten minutes is what it’s all about and what I’m enjoying the most. I’m sure there will be loads more to come over the next few months as it’s getting busier all the time.”
CD: Have you met many of the other girls in the competition yet?
SG: “I’ve met a few of the Irish girls and we all have a WhatsApp group so as everyone was crowned each was added to the group. I wake up every morning and there’s always someone to chat to and we’re all in the same boat. Someone might be going through a break up or whatever it is and we’re all there for her and I had an issue myself with a dress a while back and everyone was there for advice. It’s been great because when we meet we’re all going to feel like we know each other already. I’m sharing a room with the Roscommon Rose next week and we feel like we’ve known each other for years already! A lot of the girls from abroad are Irish too so it’s been lovely so far.”
CD: Can you tell us about your talent for the competition?
SG: “I did Irish dancing for my initial selection night and I plan to do it for the stage although we’re not guaranteed to get through yet. At the moment there is 65 of us and 32 get through to the televised part - 16 Monday night and 16 Tuesday night - so if I do get through I’ll be Irish dancing.”
CD: What do you like most about Tipperary Crystal as a brand?
SG: “I like that it’s so elegant and there’s pieces that suit all ages. In every way it suits old and young. There’s some real statement pieces and then little delicate pieces that are more suitable for daily wear. There’s so many colours to choose from with the rose gold and silver and also bit of purple and blue. There’s a really good mix of everything and something for everyone.
CD: What’s your favourite piece of Tipperary Crystal from the Carraig Donn shoot?
SG: “I think I would say the watches because they’re quite dressy but still casual.”
CD: Now on to the style questions! What is the one item in your wardrobe you could never live without?
SG: “I think I would say a nice pair of jeans even though I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pair. A good pair of jeans that you can dress up or down. I loved the Redial ones I tried on for today’s shoot and I’m definitely going to buy them. They slip on so easily and the stretchy material makes them so comfortable.”
CD: Who would you say is your style icon?
SG: “I would be quite into Irish bloggers and I really love Just Jordan. She can lounge around the house in her trackies and she doesn’t care and then she gets dressed up and looks fab! I also really like Doireann Garrihy lately too. She’s so quirky and I love her style. I wouldn’t really follow Hollywood fashion or pass any heed. I’m more into Irish fashion and love that you can now see bloggers talking about clothes or something they bought and it’s attainable.”
CD: What is your current favourite trend?
SG: “I just bought a pair of culottes and I’m trying to style them which can be tricky but I’m trying to make them work. As well as that I’m trying to get dresses that are elegant for Rose events that are still young and stylish.”
CD: What would you never be caught wearing?
SG: “Probably low cut, tight mini-skirts or dresses. I’m not really into that and I wouldn’t have the guts to wear low cut tops either.”
CD: What past style moment of yours makes you cringe the most?
SG: “I was mad to get a pair of O’Neills tracksuit bottoms when I was in school but I couldn’t really afford them. I was only about 14 or 15 and I found a pair on sale in Elverys that were sky blue with zips all the way up the side. I bought them and wore them all the time even though they were quite big on me. Also for my confirmation I wore a pink pin stripe suit!”
CD: What is the most prominent colour in your wardrobe?
SG: “I would probably say creams and beiges. I like a lot of warm, neutral colours like browns and lately pale pinks too.”
CD: What is your current favourite piece on CarraigDonn.com?
SG: “The mint beaded dress - I loved it! It’s so comfy! All the dresses I’ve got for Tralee so far are all quite similar in style but this is a little different.”