Our Dedicated Team

Maire and her boys, Ross & Dara

(and also her first students!)

Máire O'Connell, SDCRG began the Claddagh School of Irish Dancing in 1985 in Ventura, CA. She moved to Ventura from Galway, Ireland in 1978. Ms. O'Connell has been dancing most of her life and is accredited to teach and adjudicate, and has recently been certified as an examiner by by the Irish Dancing Commission of Dublin. She is active in the Irish-American community and participates in a wide variety of community events. She held the position of president of the Irish American Club of Ventura County. Máire is also a 1995 honoree of the City of Los Angeles for her participation in the Irish community of Southern California. She encourages her students to get involved in many community projects and benefit shows.

Gaelic is Máire’s first language and she is a graduate of University College, Galway, where she earned the credentials B.A., H.D.E., and LL.B. She is also fluent in Spanish, which serves to further the artistic and cultural exchange within Southern California.

Máire has 2 sons, Ross and Dara, who have both danced throughout the years, and continue to offer support to Claddagh.

Click on the link below to see a how it all began...


Kelly Sullivan

Kelly has grown up with Claddagh! An Open Champion, Kelly was 3rd in 9 Western Regionals, danced on title winning teams and competed in the World Championships.

Kelly began assisting in the studios as a teen, and after completing school became a full-time assistant. In 2001, Kelly sat for the TCRG exam and was awarded her license on the first attempt. Kelly then accepted a TCRG position in a new school opening in Germany. While in Germany, Kelly’s dancers placed in the European Championships. After teaching for 2 years, Kelly returned to Claddagh where her friends and family are.

Kelly passed her ADCRG examination in 2012 and now teaches in the Ventura.

Annie Darlington

Annie first became a part of the Claddagh School at the age of 2½ when her older sister, Katie, began taking lessons. Under Máire's direction, Annie became a champion solo dancer and won numerous team championship titles, including the Western US Regional, North American, All-Ireland, and World Championships.

Annie began teaching with Claddagh in 2000, helping train new generations of dancers from new beginners to world champions. After heading to college to pursue dance, she took over as lead choreographer for Claddagh’s world-renowned figure teams in 2005.

In 2011, she finally hung up her competition shoes upon successful completion of her teaching certification (T.C.R.G.), and added an adjudication (A.D.C.R.G) certificate in September 2019.

Annie is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a regular teacher in both South Bay and Ventura, and also serves as choreographer.

Gene Sullivan

Gene Sullivan started dancing with Scoil Rince Maoileidigh when he was 9 years old. He thought he was done when he left home to attend UC Santa Barbara, but Maire had other plans. She coaxed him out of retirement in 1997 to join Claddagh’s first Mixed Senior Choreography team, “The Boys of Killybegs.” When he decided to stop competing, he was 30 years old, married, and father to baby Maya, who now dances for Claddagh.

He continues to be an active part of the school, having passed the TCRG exam in 2011. He now teaches, and can always be found running a stage at Claddagh’s feiseanna.

Emily Holehouse

Growing up, Emily spent countless hours in classes at the Ventura studio and competed in in both solo and team competitions world wide, including the World Championships in Ireland. She now lives in Santa Barbara with her four children.

Emily taught classes at our Ventura studio for many years and passed her TCRG exam in 2011. She ran the Santa Barbara studio for several years before taking a break to raise a family. We are thrilled that she is now back to teaching in Santa Barbara.