On Saturday night at the Donegal Ball, Móira Cahill ended her one-year reign as the Philadelphia Donegal Association’s Mary from Dungloe, with grace and poise—and an infectious grin that never seemed to leave her face all evening. At the end of the night, when Kelly Devine, her good friend from the Coyle School of Irish Dance, became the 2014 Mary, there was cause for even more joy.
Still, a lot of people didn’t know—at least, not before the Donegal Ball—that Cahill had won the Ladies Under 20 competition Friday at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas. The Oireachtas (ERR-uhk-tuhss) is a major Irish dance championship, held each year over the Thanksgiving holiday in Center City.
“I danced hornpipes and reels, and if you’re recalled, you do a contemporary set dance. I performed ’The Blackthorn Stick’,” Cahill recalled as the evening’s festivities at the Philadelphia Irish Center wound down. “I danced hard shoe and soft shoe. My whole competition was on Friday.”
Cahill, 20, has been dancing for 15 years, and competing for 14. She has always been a very good dancer, as evidenced by her 4th place finish at the Oireachtas two years ago, and her second place last year. But none of her success has come easily. It has required seriously hard work and dedication.
“It takes a lot of practice. I was going to practice four to five times a week,” Cahill said, tiara and heels off, kicking back in a lounge off the Irish Center ballroom—finally taking a well-earned break. “It also takes a lot of mental preparation.”
As a result of her first-place finish, Cahill is qualified to compete at the 2014 North American Irish Dance Championships in Montréal in July, which she said she is likely to attend.
For now, though, it’s a time to briefly sit back and take it all in. And it’s a lot to take in, Cahill said, again with the smile. “It’s been quite a weekend.”