Miss Sunday World shines at 'booty camp'
They laughed. They screamed. They sang.
Twenty three beauties swapped their high heels and lipstick for wetsuits and war paint this week as they took part in the second ever Miss Ireland booty camp.
And Miss Sunday World Laura Fox was in the thick of all the action
"It was a fabulous three days and I've made new friends for life," gushed the stunning 23-year-old.
"It has just been so exciting and everyone has been really sound and great criac. We were having so much fun I kept forgetting its a competition."
The three day event in Westport, Co Mayo, is designed as a fun-packed bonding session for the girls before the Miss Ireland final in Dublin on July 19.
The most adventurous girl will automatically make it to the last 15 in the final.
The days when Miss Ireland was judged on how she looked in a bikini are long gone, says organiser Brendan Scully.
"Miss Ireland is like the longest job interview you will ever go through," he says.
"The winner will get a job that will change her whole life.
"Its not about one night. We are watching them the whole time to see how they deal with different situations, how they deal with the media.
"We want them to represent Ireland to the highest level they can.
"We are looking for someone who can walk into a room and have no bother talking to an ambassador, the press or anyone else.
"It is a beauty pageant but it is more about overall beauty rather than the stereotype idea of a beauty competition."
And Brendan and partner Sean Montague were highly impressed by Miss Sunday World.
"She's up for everything and is always smiling. She has great personality," says Sean.
Westport opened its arms to the 23 contestants - a total of 36 girls will be in the final although some were on holiday or had work commitments - with Westport Woods Hotel and local businesses all getting involved.
The girls spent a day doing challenges at fun-filled Westport House, screaming in mock terror on the high wire climbing frames and laughing with delight while killing each other Hunger Games-style on the archery tag and laser gun courses.
The next day was spent on the water at adrenalin-pumping Adventure Islands, where they spent hours kayaking and doing a water obstacle course.
Teams then wrote, produced and made their own mini-films with a Miss Ireland theme.
The winning entry was about a girl preparing for a Sunday World fashion shoot when disaster struck.
Adventure Islands boss Ciaran Collins said: "The girls had a lot of fun over the three days and Miss Sunday World was fantastic.
"She was involved in everything. Every time there was a splash in the water she was in the middle of it. She was the first one in and the last one out and was really enthusiastic."
The girls turned heads all over Westport including Matt Molloys pub, where they sung their hearts out in an impromptu session, and the Clock Tavern.
Back home in Galway last night lovely Laura said: "We had so much fun which was what it was all about.
"The archery got so competitive we gave up shooting the targets and started hitting each other. We were like a bunch of boys," laughed Laura, who became great friends with Miss Sunday World runner-up Shannon Howe (20), who was there as Miss Dublin Central.
"On the water obstacle course we had a Gladiator moment and I lost two nails but made more friends!"
One of those was Miss Personality, Laura McCormack (19), the first ever Miss Ireland finalist chosen "blind" by a radio audience.
The beautiful blonde from Co Offaly said she loved every minute of the boot camp: "It was 100 times better than I expected. It was an amazing experience"
"Entering the competition was the best thing I have done so far in my life."
Another precedent was Sarah Jane Dunne, the first Traveller to reach the finals of Miss Ireland.
The 24-year-old beauty is the daughter of the late Pecker Dunne, a renowned musician, and she is the goddaughter of Christie Moore and a cousin of Finbar Furey.
The current Miss Kilkenny, and a former Miss Sunday World finalist, Sarah Jane, said: "I have got a really good response and I'm happy to present a positive image of travellers.
Our man JIm Gallagher with Laura Fox
"You only ever hear the bad stuff about our community and not those with PhDs or those involved with sport or the arts."
Sarah Jane recently graduated from Trinity College as a fully qualified secondary teacher.
Two other ex-Miss Sunday Worlds finalists were among the beauties: Kate McGlennon, Miss Clare, and Emma OKane, Miss Donegal.