Jack puts his studies on hold to reach World Irish Dancing Championships

Jack ODonnell

There can’t be many undergraduates who take a year out from their studies to focus on perfecting their Irish dancing skills.

But that is exactly what University College Birmingham student Jack O’Donnell has done – and his dedication has paid off.   

The 22-year-old from Coventry was part of a team which ranked sixth in the World Irish Dancing Championships, held in Glasgow in March.

The achievement was possible thanks to the support of lecturers at UCB, who allowed Jack to take a year out from his degree in Childhood Studies to focus on competing.

He has spent the past seven months touring the length and breadth of the country, honing his talent at regional competitions, where he consistently ranked within the top five. His was delighted to compete at the World Championships alongside his friends from the Scoil Rince Tullamore School of Irish Dance.

Jack credits the Potters Green Club in Coventry, where he father used to work, with igniting his love of Irish dancing. As a child he would often accompany his dad to the club on Saturday mornings, when an Irish Dancing class would be held in the function room.

Jack recalled: “I started off just watching while my dad worked, but after a while I began joining in. Before long I was doing five classes a week. I was hooked.”

His enthusiasm increased throughout his school years, and by the time he arrived at UCB three years ago, Jack had set his sights on combining a teaching career with running his own dance school.

But juggling his studies and dancing commitments with a part-time cleaning job proved too much of a challenge. Alaina Lally, UCB’s senior lecturer in Childhood Studies, helped to ease the pressure by arranging for Jack to defer his final year studies for 12 months.

She said: “I was delighted to hear of Jack’s success in the World Championships. His achievement is a credit to his dedication and determination and will be a source of great inspiration to the children he will teach in his future career.”

Jack is now feeling exciting about returning to UCB in September. He said: “I was doing a lot of things to an average standard, rather than focusing on one thing and doing it well. I’m really pleased I was brave and made the decision to defer. I now feel ready to start studying again. I love the psychology side of child development. I know that education is something I will be involved in for the rest of my life.”