“I’m so thrilled for them! I’m beyond excited!” Those were the words of Mary McGing-Duckworth, as she spoke to backstage after a team from the dancing school bearing her name became World Irish Dancing Champions.

The category was in Junior Girls Figure Under 16s. And after having called to the stage to receive their trophy, the dancers from the McGing School of Irish Dance, from Cincinnati, Ohio, were asked to do a performance once again.

This time around was perhaps even better than the performance that won them the World Championship. They delivered an absolutely captivating performance of a dance called “The Maiden Voyage,” which was choreographed by their teacher. It took many years to get it absolutely right, she said.

One of team's winners later explained  that the dance was about how poor, young Irish girls immigrated to the U.S to work for middle-class families, only to climb the social ladder themselves.

Were any of the girls expecting this? “No! Not at all,” was the resounding response. How would they celebrate? With ice cream, of course!

One of the dancers,14-year-old Sarabeth Stretcher, said “It’s amazing – I’ve never felt like this before. We worked so hard for this, and for it to actually happen, is just unbelievable.”

For Sarabeth, who was been Irish dancing for eight years – and who took up Irish dancing not because of any Irish heritage like most of her teammates, but simply “because I was motivated to do it” – the countless hours of practice have paid off.

McGing-Duckworth frequently gasped for air as she talked, interrupted occasionally by some of her pupils, many of whom were in tears. This is the first time anyone in her school has become world champion – and she said she was so shocked, she could hardly speak. “I just didn’t expect this at all,” she said.