Ivanna win | 

How pandemic inspired Clare doctor Ivanna McMahon to go for Miss Ireland

Ennis native Ivanna was thrown in at the deep end when she graduated from medical school at the peak of the pandemic in 2020.

Dr Ivanna McMahon from Clare was named Miss Ireland in August

Ivanna is set to fly the flag for Ireland at Miss World

Ivanna relaxing after winning the crown

Ivanna beat 36 other contestants to be crowned Miss Ireland

Ivanna with Miss Ireland 2021 and pal Pamela Uba© Kieran Harnett

Junior doctor Ivanna was named Miss Ireland at a glitzy final at The Royal Theatre in Mayo

Deirdre ReynoldsSunday World

What a difference a year makes for Ivanna McMahon, who started 2022 battling Covid, and will end it battling it out for the Miss World crown.

Junior doctor Ivanna was named Miss Ireland at a glitzy final at The Royal Theatre in Mayo in August.

Now the Clare woman is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rosanna Davison when she represents Ireland on the world stage in December.

“Everyone that goes there would love to win,” says the 27-year-old, who succeeds medical scientist Pamela Uba in the role.

“I would absolutely be hopeful that I do well. But most importantly, I really hope that I do Ireland proud because I’m so incredibly grateful to have been chosen.

Ivanna is set to fly the flag for Ireland at Miss World

“Miss World will be held towards the end of the year, but we haven’t got the date or location for it yet. Last year, it was Puerto Rico — it tends to be somewhere sunny, so fingers crossed it’ll be somewhere similar!

“I’m actually really, really excited,” she beams. “After I won, I was actually inundated with messages from all the other contestants.

“So many of the other women that are representing their countries have messaged me to say that they can’t wait to meet me, which was really lovely. It’s still a bit surreal.”

Ennis native Ivanna was thrown in at the deep end when she graduated from medical school at the peak of the pandemic in 2020.

And the UCC graduate reveals how it was life on the frontline that ironically taught her to grab the glamorous opportunity with both hands.

“We actually graduated six weeks early,” she says, recalling the baptism of fire. “They brought forward our exams, so we went straight into it [work].

“That was a bit daunting at the time. But I got through it and so did everyone else.

Ivanna relaxing after winning the crown

“I was really lucky, I started a lovely job in the neurology department in Cork University Hospital and everyone was so helpful, so kind and really supportive.

“They knew that it was something completely different for us, and we started earlier than what we usually would have, but everyone was really supportive.

“Then I completed my first year on the GP scheme down in University Hospital Kerry.

“I was working over Christmas last year and I ended up testing Covid-positive on January 1 this year,” she recalls. “That was my first time [getting it], but I wasn’t very sick, thank God, just very mild symptoms.

“It was an unusual start to the year.”

Now on a year out to make the most of her reign, Dr Ivanna had never even entered a beauty pageant before when she decided to go for the coveted title, which has famously been held by Michelle Rocca (1980), Andrea Roche (1997) and Holly Carpenter (2011).

“I would have always had a big interest in fashion and beauty growing up, but I suppose I wouldn’t have put myself forward for it,” she says.

“I would have followed the competition online and on Instagram for years before I entered this year.

“I suppose when I was younger, I might have been a little bit more reserved, a bit more shy. Being a little bit older, a little bit more mature in myself, I definitely do think that this is the right year to go for it.

“Working for the two years during Covid, I suppose that really made me realise how important it is to take every opportunity, make the most of out life — to seize the opportunity when you can because there might be a time where we won’t be able to seize the opportunity.”

Ivanna beat 36 other contestants to be crowned Miss Ireland

Traditional musician Ivanna wowed the judges by playing Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine on the harp in the final of the competition.

And the talented performer — who also plays six other instruments, including the harmonica, fiddle and tin whistle — insists there’s much more to the glamorous competition than meets the eye.

“There is a lot involved,” explains Ivanna, who has toured Austria and Germany as part of the National Irish Harp Orchestra. “There can be a bit of a misconception about it.

“There was 37 contestants altogether; we all had to compete in a head-to-head challenge, so that would have been public speaking, discussing our chosen charities for the year, women in business and [other] topical questions.

“We also would have competed in a sports day, and then had a talent section, and the amount of talent was amazing. We had other musicians, we had singers, we had motivational public speaking, showjumping.

“It was the harp I played at Miss Ireland and I would love to play that at Miss World. It’s such a beautiful instrument, it’s the national symbol of Ireland and I think it would be absolutely lovely as well to bring that to a world stage.”

And fluent Irish speaker Ivanna has another trick up her sleeve in her bid to succeed current Miss World Karolina Bielawska of Poland at the pageant’s 71st outing later this year.

“I went to Gaelcholáiste an Chláir, the Irish secondary school here in Ennis,” she continues.

Ivanna with Miss Ireland 2021 and pal Pamela Uba© Kieran Harnett

“I think it’s really, really important to keep up the practice in Irish, keep speaking it and bring more [awareness] to it around the world because it is such a beautiful language. It would be a pity for it to die away.

“We should be incredibly proud of our Irish traditions — of our heritage and our language — and I’d definitely like to bring that to Miss World with me.”

Established in 1947, in recent years, Miss Ireland has raised over €351,220 for many good causes including Variety children’s charity.

Model and scientist Pamela Uba made history last year when she became the first Black Miss Ireland.

And successor Ivanna, whose chosen charity is the Irish Red Cross, praised the Mayo woman for passing on more than just the glittering crown.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” she smiles. “She is absolutely amazing, a true inspiration — she did so many amazing things when she was Miss Ireland.

“The two of us would have had some events together, which was brilliant to have her there. She’s been really helpful to me, giving me tips and advice for the year, for Miss World.

“All the previous Miss Irelands have all been really, really supportive.”

Changes to Miss World in recent years include the scrapping of the controversial bikini round in 2014. However, contestants aged between 18-27 are still required to be unmarried and child-free.

Although she acknowledges that not everyone is going to be a fan of the long-running event, at home in Ennis, Ivanna says there’s been nothing but good vibes.

Junior doctor Ivanna was named Miss Ireland at a glitzy final at The Royal Theatre in Mayo

“It’s been absolutely wonderful — so many of my neighbours have come up to see me. People I haven’t seen for a long time have called to say hello.

“I think anybody that is in the limelight in any way can have negative comments, as well as positive. It is sad to see that people can have these negative things [to say] about people — it’s not fair.

“My own personal feeling on it is definitely focus on the positive. Usually 95pc of things people will say are positive, and I absolutely tend to focus on that positivity rather than focusing on the negative.

“I think Miss World has lots of really good, positive parts to it. I’m definitely planning on throwing myself into it.”

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