Cara Martin, representing Connacht Distillery, won The Lady of the Moy competition at the Great National Hotel Ballina. Photo: John O'Grady

Cara is Lady of the Moy as traditional pre-festival event returns to Mayo town

The traditional pre-Ballina Salmon Festival warm-up, the annual Lady of the Moy competition, took place in the Great National Hotel Ballina on Saturday night last.

After a night of glitz and glamour, local lady Cara Martin, representing Connacht Distillery, claimed the crown.

The Lady of the Moy will represent Ballina Salmon Festival during festival week as well as acting as an ambassador for the town throughout the year, including representing Ballina Salmon Festival in the Mayo Rose competition.

Holding the title of Lady of the Moy is regarded as an honour for the winning lady and offers great opportunities for networking and development as well as many fun, memorable occasions throughout the year.

Sponsored by Allure Hair & Beauty, Dr. Lisa Guthrie and Ballina Chamber, this year the competition boasted 12 contestants in total, each representing a local business or group. The contest was judged by Donnacha Roache (Mayo Rose Centre, Rose of Tralee Festival), Martha Galvin (Allure Hair & Beauty Saloon) and Elaine Armstrong (Spa manager, Ice House Hotel).

Master of Ceremonies on the night and local DJ Paul Bourke ensured the participants enjoyed the on-stage interview, keeping the banter and conversation flowing and guiding the participants through their stint on stage. Most sang, danced or recited poetry, showing once again the level of talent that exists in Ballina. Each girl also completed an individual interview with the judges.

Winner Cara Martin, who performed a poem given to her by her Leaving Cert English teacher Mrs. Henry, is second year student of business and event management in Technological University of the Shannon, and is travelling to Valencia, Spain, on an Erasmus programme in September. She is a passionate ambassador for her hometown of Ballina while studying in Limerick.

Cara is youth advocate for Epilepsy Ireland, having been diagnosed with the condition during her Leaving Cert year, and has raised thousands for the charity over the previous years, climbing Croagh Patrick and organising fundraising events in Ballina and Limerick.

Cara’s family has a strong history of involvement with the festival and she expressed her delight at being able to take an active role in this year’s celebrations, especially after the absence of the festival during the previous three years.

She said: “I’ll never forget the experience of taking part in this event and the support I received on the night, from my employers and sponsors Connacht Distillery, from the audience and my family especially. I’m blown away by the level of beautiful messages I’ve received since Saturday night. It means so much to me to be involved given the involvement of my family in the past 30 years, and I am so proud to represent my town over the next year.”

Indeed, Cara and Paul joked during her on-stage interview that in previous years she understood the amount of background work that’s goes into preparing for the festival as she had hung flags and dressed up on National Heritage Day. She certainly won’t be hanging flags for this year’s festival!

Event organiser Mary Moyles, manager of The Cot & Cobble, commented: “The Lady of the Moy gives these young women a fantastic opportunity and the confidence they gain from standing up in front of their town is wonderful. They are all so proud to represent their towns and their businesses. In our eyes they are all winners and young women our town can be proud of.”

The Lady of the Moy competition was supported by several local businesses. Allure Hair & Beauty and Dr. Lisa Guthrie were the main sponsors, providing the main prizes, as well as The Cot & Cobble. The event was also supported by hosts Great National Hotel Ballina, Ballina Chamber of Commerce, Rouse's Jewellers, Gerry McGuire's, Ward's Pharmacy, Ballina Blossoms, Boots, Molloy's Pharmacy, Connacht Distillery, The Ice House, Goldtime Jewellery, The Post House, Platforms, Mister A, Gerry Kenny Sports, McKane's Pharmacy, Imprint Ballina, Price Busters and Dave's Deli.

The next big Ballina Salmon Festival Event is the festival launch party on Saturday (June 25) in Tom Ruane Park from 2.30 p.m. Further information is available at

The traditional pre-Ballina Salmon Festival event, The Lady of the Moy, returned this year. The competitors are pictured at the competition final, which was held at the Great National Hotel Ballina on Saturday. Back, from left: Avril Tolan, Moloney's SuperValu; Rachel McTigue, Ballina Manor Hotel; Jessica Butler, Bar Square; Shauna Sweeney, Mount Falcon; Isabella Tierney, Broken Jug; Cara Martin, Connacht Distillery (winner); Keeley Bruce, Great National Hotel Ballina; and Lorna Salmon, Centre Stage Academy. Front: Danielle Carey Lynam, Beyond Beauty; Caoimhe Reape, Order of Malta; Casey Garrett, The Cot & Cobble; and Tania Arshynova, Great Nation Hotel Ballina. Photo: John O'Grady