NewsNorthern Ireland

Ballymena beauties face-off in race for MIss Northern Ireland crown

Northern IrelandBy Roisin Gorman
Ashleigh Woods, Miss NI Rebekah Shirley and Catherine McKillop
Ashleigh Woods, Miss NI Rebekah Shirley and Catherine McKillop

New Miss Ballymena Ashleigh Woods knows all about winning but it’s usually with her four legged friends.

The 20-year-old champion show jumper is one of the latest challengers to make it through to the Therapie Miss Northern Ireland final.

Ashleigh was chosen from 21 hopefuls with new Miss Gillies Catherine McKillop at a packed heat at the Galgorm Hotel in Ballymena.

The beautician says the glam night was a world away from her usual after-work activity when she’s mucking out horse Savannah.

“It’s the total opposite of what I do every day – people think show jumping is glamorous too but it’s really not,” says the winner.

“Most of the time is spent looking after her, every day including Sunday, and producing her, so it will be a couple of years before she reaches her peak to compete.”

The finalist has already won on the national circuit after training with Ireland coach Eamonn Rice, with the backing of parents Donna and Alan.

“I was Rider of the Year when I competed on ponies at 12, and I’d love to be a national champion again.”

Despite her competitive edge the Randalstown woman, who works in Bronze in Ballymena, says it took a few years to work up the confidence to try out for the Sunday World-sponsored Miss Northern Ireland.

For Miss Gillies Catherine it was last year’s winner Rebekah Shirley who convinced her to take the plunge.

“I’d seen the change in Rebekah from lacking a bit in confidence to speaking at the launch of the competition when she was so elegant.

“That was a real inspiration for me because up to now it’s been a lack of confidence that’s held me back,” says the 20-year-old.

 Catherine McKillop and Ashleigh Woods

The young Glenarm woman is a second year fashion and textile student at Ulster University with a plan to switch into professional make-up and modelling when she’s completed her degree.

“From a really young age I’ve been watching America’s Next Top Model – I actually went along to a local agency with a friend and she’s doing really well but I haven’t got there yet.

“I also want to train in special effects and stage make up.

“But I’m still getting over the shock of winning the heat. I completely freaked out when my name was called,” says Catherine.

26 heat winners will have the chance to pick up the title and a prize package which includes a trip to Miss World, a Therapie Ultimate VIP package worth over £5,000, a wardrobe of designer dresses from Belfast’s Blush Boutique and a £500 make up hamper and lesson from Paddy McGurgan’s Make Up Pro Store.

New sponsor Donnelly Group has also come on board with a Fiat 500 for the year for the winner. Organisers are looking for ambitious young women aged between 17 and 24 from all over Northern Ireland to compete.

To enter online go to or send a picture with name, address and telephone number to the Therapie Miss Northern Ireland Contest, 381 Beersbridge Road, Belfast, BT5 5DT/

For more information and a list of prizes go to

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