MEET THE TEAM AT IRISH GAP YEAR

Meet the Team

At Irish Gap Year, the focus is very much on working as a team. We foster this principle in our all our programs and it is no different in our own working lives in the company.

Please let us introduce some of the main members of our team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Allen Irish Gap Year

Ryan Allen

A founding member of Irish Gap Year, Ryan has been involved in outdoor education for the past 12 years and has worked in both management & delivery capacities extensively in America, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway. Ryan is an avid outdoor enthusiast, adventurer and musician and holds graduate degrees in both Literature and American Studies from The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Having taught outdoor education on 3 continents Ryan has a huge amount of hands-on expertise working with youth and adult groups. Ryan has led several adventure-travel trips abroad and many trips in Ireland over the years and is passionate about creating inspiring and transformative experiences.

Ryan's role within Irish Gap Year is multi-faceted. He is the head of program creation and content, involved in many aspects of outdoor adventure delivery and is the main administrator. Ryan stays active in the community teaching and volunteering with many regional charities and youth groups.

In his free time, Ryan can often be found surfing the Donegal coast, hiking in the mountains, playing music in the pubs and working on Whitehill Eco Farm in Ballyshannon with his partner Fiona. 

Killian O’Kelly

Killian O'Kelly irish Gap Year

Killian is a founding member of Irish Gap Year. He is from the town of Bundoran in County Donegal, on the north-western seaboard of Ireland. After completing an honours degree in Construction Engineering from University of Ulster Jordanstown he worked with DELL Computers for a number of years.

However, his passion for outdoor sports and life on the west coast of Ireland brought him back home to set up an adventure tourism company with his wife Mary. Their company, TurfnSurf Tours have been providing adventure activities tours to tourists since 2006. His work has included providing activities and volunteer support to local community groups such as the Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP).

In recent years Killian has conducted and managed, government funded, educational courses for unemployed youth to train to become a Surf Instructors and Beach Lifeguards.

Killian has had a lifetime interest in water-sports and rescue services related to the sea. He has been a pool and beach lifeguard for many years and is currently a volunteer crew member of the Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat.

He grew up surfing in Bundoran and this sport has meant he has also travelled extensively. In particular Killian spent many summers living and working in Boston in the US. He has also lived and worked in New Zealand and travelled to countries such as China, Russia, Mongolia, Australia and throughout Europe.

Margaret O'Reilly-Allen Irish Gap Year

Margie O’Reilly, Ph.D.

Margie is a board member, academic advisor and head of our US offices at Irish Gap Year.  Margie holds a Ph.D. from Drexel University in Philadelphia and is a professor and program director at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. As an Irish Gap Year board member and head of our offices in the US, Margie is our Irish/American liaison and a major contributor to the Irish Gap Year course content. Margie delivers the communication & Soft Skills modules of the Transition Adventure Program. 

Known affectionately to her students as Doctor ‘O’, Margie has extensive experience in working with students and has awards for teaching and volunteering at the university. Over the past ten years, she has developed and led numerous student study tours to Ireland, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Czech Republic and Costa Rica. With over twenty years of experience in higher education, Margie is a passionate educator with a skill for developing curriculum that blends business, culture and fun.

Margie’s family is from county Cavan in Ireland and she grew up in the Philadelphia area and participated in the Philadelphia Cavan Society. Working with Irish Gap Year is a natural fit that combines her love of working with young people, travel, program design and spending time in Ireland.

Margie is an avid cyclist and can often be found on her bike touring the Delaware River routes, even on the coldest of winter days! She has cycled extensively in Europe and America, but enjoys her time in Ireland most of all. She also enjoys reading, swimming and spending time with her family.

Celia Keenaghan PhD. 

Celian Keenaghan Irish Gap YEar

Celia Keenaghan, PhD is a sociologist, a native of Bundoran, now living and raising a family in North Sligo. Celia is the head of Irish Gap Year's Leadership & Communication Skills for students. She is a social innovation consultant committed to enabling those working for civic wellbeing to maximise knowledge, ideas and research by bridging the worlds of business, community, funders, academia, policy and practice. Celia Teaches the Leadership and Communication Skills modules for Gap Year students every Thursday throughout the 12 week program. 

She has been a driver of many key local and national initiatives including the pioneering SpunOut.ie national youth social change organisation. Her work with SpunOut and with the Irish Health Services demonstrates her commitment to enabling and supporting children and young people to be involved in decisions affecting their lives.                   

Celia is an experienced educator and trainer at community, undergraduate, postgraduate and in-service levels. Celia plays the accordion and the early Irish harp and enjoys bringing creativity to her work and her involvement in the community. An example of this was her involvement in the creative team behind Yeats 150 Harp Festival of Moons in 2015 which saw harp events in Yeats related locations across Ireland on every full moon during the year. Celia enjoys Yoga, walking by the sea, reading and writing poetry and music. A recent venture into song writing resulted in a song Celia co-wrote featuring on a recent DVD about the Irish in the Catskills.

Aisling Gallagher Clarke

Program Leader

Aisling Clarke Aisling Gallagher Clarke (or Ash as she prefers to be called), BA Honours Social Care Practice, is a native of Sligo. Ash gained leadership experience and autonomy from a young age leaving home at seventeen and working as a team leader in the north of Ireland. Ash has broad professional experience working creatively and in the outdoors with young people and adults through summer camps in Sligo, surf camps in Portugal, and residential care homes for young people in Germany. Wherever she has lived, or worked, it has always been close to the sea, rivers, and mountains because of her love of nature. She currently lives between Bundoran and Strandhill in order to be close to the rugged seascapes of the west of Ireland and all the cultural hubs in the villages dotted along it.

Ash is an avid volunteer and this belief has brought her abroad many times. She believes that communities thrive from understanding volunteering from a collective view point and the positive benefits that can be gained, like meeting new people, flexing new skills, and developing altruism. Ash’s interests lie in anything outdoors (especially surfing and hiking), art, dance, music and cooking. Ash strives to share and mix her interests professionally and personally to model and encourage creativity, enthusiasm and innovation which leads to fulfilling and transformative experiences. Ash has developed and facilitated several workshops and programs related to creative practices like dance, meditation, art, and drama through her varied professional roles, this has in turn developed her bubbly and motivating teaching style. Aisling joins Irish Gap Year as a program leader and is looking forward to her adventures with the Gappers.

Christopher McGloin

Program Leader

Christopher McGloin, aka Chris, is a local lad born and raised in the country side of county Sligo. Chris has worked in farming and construction from a young age, learning the tricks of the trade from his father. More recently Chris has pursued his interest in working with young people as an outdoor instructor in County Donegal. In the past two years Chris has led school groups from all over Ireland on adventures around the northwest. 

Growing up along the rugged northwest coast of Ireland has given Chris a great appreciation for nature leading to his interest in surfing, hiking, camping and all things outdoors. 

Chris brings a warm sense of humour and fantastic work ethic to the Irish Gap Year team. In his own words, ‘I love working with young people and helping them to fulfill their potential. I enjoy taking people out of there comfort zone and creating lasting memories, I can’t wait to get started with the Irish Gap Year team and the new adventures and friends that comes with it.’’

Fun Fact: Chris has worked with Killian and Ryan to various degrees since he was 12 years old!

Matthew Connolly

Internship Coordinator

Matthew hails from Kildare in Ireland’s ancient east. He had a keen interest in swimming and watersports from an early age and to further his interests in the outdoors he joined the scouts where he acquired bushcraft skills and developed a passion for camping and hiking.

Since leaving secondary school Matthew has obtained a wide variety of practical skills both in Ireland and abroad working in construction as an electrician and later as a plumber. While in Australia he also took to farm life working in various vineyards, orchards and fruit farms enjoying the rustic natural lifestyle.

After seeing the potential of outdoor education in building positive outcomes for a range of different groups Matthew returned to Ireland to complete a degree in Adventure Tourism Management where he also studied how positive community development can be gained from volunteerism. In the summers between studying, Matthew spent time as a climbing instructor working with groups young and old. Seeing the benefits of volunteer work over the years he has given his time to both international organisations and local community groups alike.

Now Matthew can be found surfing the rugged west Coast, mountain biking Ireland’s trails or hiking the island’s scenic mountains.
 

 

 

Irish Gap Year Program Leader Sammie O'Reilly

Sammie O'Reilly

Sammie O’Reilly (M.Ed.) from Philadelphia Pa, has been a classroom teacher, climbing coach, physics tutor and a mentor to students from all over North America. As an avid climber Sammie believes in applying the mental discipline and lessons learned through climbing to her mentoring and teaching roles with students. Sammie joins Irish Gap Year as a program leader and educational consultant for the Transition Adventure Program in July and August.  

 

 

 

 

Rita MaganRita Magan Irish Gap Year

Rita hails from Tullaghan, County Leitrim, born and reared. Rita is the Irish Gap Year ‘House Mom’ who we all turn to for advice, a laugh and a good hearty meal. Rita has been working in hospitality throughout her life. She spent 27 years working in Page’s Café Bundoran whipping up all sorts of culinary delights to please the masses who flocked to Bundoran every summer. We are thrilled to have her as part of our ever-expanding team. The students love Rita and her amazing cooking and in turn Rita loves the students and their eclectic taste combinations – Lasagne and Pancakes! The students all call her their ‘Adoptive Granny’ or ‘Mom’. Along with a lifetime of culinary expertise Rita has reared 4 children of her own who now have to share her with our students. We hope they don’t mind!
 

 

 

 

Onora Gill-Fitch

Onóra manages the finances at Irish Gap Year. She has an excellent head for figures and but is also a very creative person. Although born in Dublin Onóra spent most of her childhood on the west coast of Ireland, moving to Drumcliffe in Sligo at the age of 8. Living in such a picturesque spot the ocean definitely had a pull for her and she took to sailing in her early teens and swam at Streedagh beach most days rain, hail or shine.
After completing her studies in Art and Design in NCAD in Dublin Onóra moved to Brighton in the UK. While here she spent 7 years working as a ceramicist with Keneth Clarke Ceramics, working her way to becoming the director of the company. During this time Onóra also met the love of her life and now husband, Graham.
As she had always wanted to work with young people Onóra became an Art Technician at Eastborne College helping studnets who were studying art and design achieve their goals. Here she again worked quite a bit with ceramics but also got into fine art and model making.
When her two girls came along her longing to come home to Ireland got greater and greater so they packed up, sold their house to start a new life back in Ireland. 10 years later Onóra is living by the sea with her husband and now four kids, loving life and enjoying her role in Irish Gap Year.

 

 

Mary Lavelle

Mary Lavelle Irish Gap Year

Mary provides tech, administrative and content creation support to the team at Irish Gap Year She comes from county Meath on the “Ancient East” coast of Ireland. Growing up so close to some of Europe’s oldest human settlements (Newgrange Passage Tomb in Meath is over 6,000 years old), she continues to have a keen interest in Ireland’s ancient and mythological history.

After completing an honours Bachelor of Science degree with Trinity College Dublin she worked as a property surveyor in Dublin City.  Since marrying Killian she now lives on the rugged north-west coast in Bundoran, county Donegal. Mary works with Killian on creating and implementing adventure activity tours for TurfnSurf Tours. In particular, she helps devise interesting and culturally diverse tours. The beauty and history of Ireland is endless and she’s a firm believer in trying to tell the world about it.

She has also been a long-standing volunteer with the Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP) and worked with the Organic Centre at Rossinver, Co Leitrim. In her spare time, she loves to go sea kayaking, walk her dog on the beach and do arts & crafts with friends.