Rigours of Lough Derg for the Roses of Tralee

Mairead McHugh and her fellow 2016 Roses on their Lough Derg pilgrimage

FORMER Fermanagh Rose Mairead McHugh has just returned from her sixth pilgrimage to Lough Derg – this time in the company of some of her fellow 2016 Roses. 
The Kinawley woman, who works in Belfast as a speech and language therapist, spent three days on the island with four other former Roses of Tralee finalists – Zoe McGettigan (Donegal), Eimear Cassidy (Derry), Megan Ferguson (Louth) and Niamh Moriarty (Westmeath). 
Over the three days, the Roses and 120 other pilgrims faced the challenge of lack of food, sleep and shoes together with a variety of knock-on physical consequences making it a tough gig of grit and mental strength. 
Mairead told the Herald: “I have been to Lough Derg six times and previously went when I was younger with my dad Kieran around exam time in the hope that I would do well. Having worked away in Scotland, I hadn’t been for a few years and was really keen to return as a thanksgiving for my past year as Fermanagh Rose. 
“It was also a chance to reflect on that experience because it was a brilliant but busy year. When I mentioned to some of the other Roses that I was going, four of them were really keen to join me for their first time. My dad and Eimear’s dad Artie came along too and like me it wasn’t their first time. The girls found it tough but thankfully they are all still speaking to me.”
Mairead added: “It is always a challenge but one that I really enjoy. It was great to take some time away and come back feeling refreshed and more appreciative for all that I have. 
It’s a really good feeling at the end of the three days especially to have a break from mobile phones and social media. It’s not a holiday by any means but it’s something I always recommend people to try as a worthwhile challenge.”        
While Mairead may have passed on the Fermanagh Rose sash to Stephanie Maguire from Florencecourt, she is looking forward to cheering her on at next month’s Rose of Tralee International Festival. 

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