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Dazzling dresses and cute curls as world championships of Irish dancing kick off

It's a long way from dancing at the crossroads for the youngsters who are taking part in the World Irish Dancing Championships this week.

There have been jaw-dropping high kicks and dazzling costumes from the 5,000 dancers at the event in the Citywest Hotel.

More than 20,000 spectators are expected to attend the championships before they end on Sunday which will see youngsters of all ages compete for top prizes.

Nine-year-old Cayleigh O'Neill is one of the youngest competitors but still manages to put in 15 hours of gruelling practice every week.

The Michael Ryan Dancing School pupil is dressed in a costume which cost a whopping €1,100.

Cayleigh told the Herald that she loves dancing competitions because she can wear make-up and she loves learning new steps in her classes.

"I started two years ago. I like the way you can learn new steps and practise them, and then if you practise well you might get newer steps. My favourite is the reel because you can really jump high and the music is nice.

"You get to wear make-up but I don't like putting on the wigs. My mum and my aunt put it on and it takes about 20 minutes because you have to get the clips on and make sure it doesn't fall off."

Cayleigh, from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, takes classes three times a week and her dream is to become an Irish dancing teacher.

Cayleigh's mum Ann told the Herald that her costume cost €1,100 but the talented little dancer has worn the costume since last year, and it will eventually sell for up to €800.


"Cayleigh is the type of girl who gets up in the morning and she could be dancing in front of the mirror. She has oodles of confidence and if dancing can give you confidence, I wouldn't care if she had two left feet, it's great."

Though Cayleigh did not get placed in the World Championships this time, she said: "I practise for one hour every day with my mum. She used to do it when she was small as well. And we [team mates] had to practise really, really hard. We practised every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"You make lots of friends, I've made eight friends because I dance with them."