Women of Influence in Irish Sport 2016

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Influence comes in many forms, from the playing fields, the corridors of power and the decision making meeting rooms of major sponsors.  This list of the Most influential Women involved in and around Irish sport in 2016 is a mark of just how powerful Women already are and serves as a powerful rallying call to those who rightly believe that the gender balance in Irish sport from players to leaders needs to be put right.


dee-forbesDee Forbes is the newly appointed Director General of RTE and, given the power of television, perhaps now the most important woman with an influence over sport in Ireland.

She will understand the importance of sports rights having served as a prominent leader within the Discovery Group that owns Eurosport and is a major holder of rights to events including the Olympic Games from 2020.


sue-ronan-2015Sue Ronan will shortly be swapping her role as Coach of the Women’s National Soccer Team for a new role as Head of Women’s Football overall in Ireland.

A leading advocate for equality of esteem and facilities between men’s and women’s sport Ronan will bring a wealth of experience to the new role and playa major part in building on the success across Ireland of international growth in Women’s soccer.

She was a key architect of the strategic plan for the development of the Women’s Game and will now have more time to dedicate towards its implementation.


Jenna BoyleJenna Boyle is Head of Retail Operations at Boylesports, one of the major players in the Irish betting industry.  The company, founded by Boyle’s father John in 1982 now has over 200 betting shops in Ireland and is bidding to buy over 300 in Britain as a result of the Coral Ladbrokes merger.

Still a wholly privately owned company Boylesports influence across Irish sport is significant through its sponsorships of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, the Irish Greyhound Derby at Shelbourne Park and the Irish Coursing Derby in Clonmel.


Joanne CantwellJoanne Cantwell has been a key member of RTE Sports presentation team for a number of years but 2016 has seen her step up as never before.  From anchoring Champions’ League coverage in April to taking the helm of the most important Olympic broadcasts from Rio she has shone as an anchor of calm authority.

When the Pat Hickey story began to break she was in the chair and as the boxing anger swirled around Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor’s defeats she was a voice of reason.

The most important thing in advancing Women’s roles within sport at all levels is that it seems natural.  Cantwell is now ready to lead RTE’s next generation of big event guides for the nation.


Suzanne EadeSuzanne Eade is the Group Chief Financial Officer of Horse Racing Ireland. She has control over one of the largest expenditure accounts in Irish sport and is key to the liaison between the sport and its many stakeholders including Government through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

Working alongside CEO Brian Kavanagh over the past 12 months she has been a key player on projects including the Curragh Racecourse redevelopment and the growth of the Champions’ Weekend to a €4.5 million event.

Eade joined Horse racing Ireland last year from Boots Retail Ireland where she was Finance Director. She has also held senior roles in the multinational sector including with Procter and Gamble.


Jeanne McGannJeanne McGann is Marketing Director with Nissan Ireland and has overseen the expansion of the brand into sport at both local and international level.  The company are the major international sponsors of the UEFA Champions’ League and have been activating that relationship among local dealers with the Nissan Champions’ League branding now on all courtesy cars.

At local level the brand has had success with it’s Generation Next series where sport has played a key role among less exposed sports.  Rob Heffernan, Arthur Lannigan O’Keefe, Finn Lynch and the O’Donovan Brothers rowing in Rio are all brand ambassadors along with a host of others.

Nissan is also an official partner of the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon and we expect that sport will continue to play a major role in the company’s plans in coming years.


Noreen GallagherNew Entry: Noreen Gallagher is President of Glanbia’s Optimum Nutrition business covering the EMEA region.  The company has grown rapidly to become a world leader in the sports business from its Irish base and generated revenues of €923M in 2015.

Gallagher was brought into the company in 2013 having served in a variety of European Management roles with Nike and then two years as  CEO of Triumph Underwear in the UK.  Her family business in Donegal as a child was a bakery so it was a return to the food business in a sense when she relocated full time back to Ireland.


Sonia O'SullivanSonia O’Sullivan is recognised as one of the greatest international sporting stars that Ireland has produced. A three time European Champion and two time World Cross Country Champion, she became World 5,000 metres Champion in 1995 and memorably ran to a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Since retiring from competitive running in 2007 she has maintained a high public profile in both commercial and administrative terms. In 2012 she was Chef de Mission for the Irish Olympic team at the London Olympics. Her weekly column on Women’s Sport in the Irish Times gives her another powerful and influential platform to advance the cause of Women’s sport.


Siobhan EarleyNew Entry: Siobhan Earley is Head of Player Development and a member of the Senior Management team at the Gaelic Players Association.

With the new commercial deal signed between the Association and the GAA, there will be a greater resource available then ever before to ensure the wellbeing and development of senior footballers and hurlers as people and leaders within communities.  Earley will be a key driver in how that is put to best use.

She is an active participant and representative for the GPA in EU Athletes and the Professional Players Federation and was recently involved in the publication of the first EU guide on the management of Dual Careers for Athletes. She was the lead delegate in establishing internal board and financial support for the WGPA and also developed the multi award winning “We Wear More” mental health and emotional wellbeing campaign alongside her work in Player Development.


Jennifer GleesonNew Entry: Jennifer Gleeson is the Sponsorship Manager at Lidl, joining from the GAA in advance of the company signing the biggest deal in the history of Irish Women’s sport with  its sponsorship of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association.

Over €1 Million has already been invested in year one of a three year deal and the marketing push behind the campaign has lifted awareness and respect for players to a new level.

Gleeson started her career with WHPR before joining the GAA in 2012 and working within the sponsorship team there.  She is also on the Sport for Business Young Leaders panel for 2016.


Lisa BrowneLisa Browne is Head of Marketing at Electric Ireland and a key influencer on one of the most important sports sponsorship investment programmes in the country.

This year’s Team Ireland sponsorship for the Olympics is currently in full swing but it is only part of a programme focused on youth that incorporates sponsorship of the GAA All Ireland Minor Championships and the Irish U20 Rugby Six Nations.


Beatrice Cosgrove 2016Beatrice Cosgrove is the Northern Europe Area Manager for Etihad Airways and a powerful influence on the airline’s long term and growing investment in partnership with the GAA.

As sponsors of the All Ireland Hurling Championship they have broadcast the last two year’s finals live on their international aircraft.  In 2016 they are an instrumental partner in bring the GAA World Games to a new level with the finals being played in Croke Park as part of a week long festival of sport.

Cosgrove joined Etihad ahead of its launch in Ireland in 2008 having previously worked with Continental and All Nippon Airlines.


Shauna McIntyreNew Entry: Shauna McIntyre is the Sport and Wellbeing Partnership Manager at Dublin City Council.  Controlling a budget for sport of €15 million a year gives McIntyre guidance over one of the largest single investment pots in Irish sport and in one of the most visible areas.

From managing the provision of sports facilities and programmes through to developing marquee events like the Great Dublin Bike Ride, she has a major role to play in how sport in the capital affects the lives of those who live, work and play in the city.

Bringing the new Sport and Wellbeing Partnership to life and developing a cohesive strategy on how that will create a lasting impact will be a major challenge in the next 12 months, one she will meet head on.


Jacqui HurleyJacqui Hurley is one of a dozen female sports presenters who deserve a place in our list.  She is the voice of Saturday Sport on the radio, the voiceover behind documentaries including the Road to Rio and the face of the RTÉ Euros highlights every night during the tournament in France.

A player at the highest levels of Basketball and Camogie she began her broadcast career in Ireland with local radio in Limerick and brings infectious enthusiasm to every story she covers for news, radio and TV.

She is an ambassador for Women’s sport but more importantly a pioneer in how women in sport have become normal at every level.  She is not the only one, and would be the first to deflect credit to others but she deserves here place here.


Caroline MurphyCaroline Murphy is one of three women on the Board of Sport Ireland.  She is also Chair of the anti-doping committee and as such will play a key role in managing the threat to the integrity of sport posed by Doping scandals in advance and subsequent to the Rio Olympic Games.

Previously a broadcaster on RTE, Murphy was one of the first female voices to appear regularly in a sporting context


geraldinelarkinGeraldine Larkin is starting out on year three as CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board. Attendances are rising and the sport continues to deliver ever more in terms of a contribution to Ireland’s reputation for sports tourism.

It has been a challenging period but with a rising overall economic outlook the sport is playing well on its roots as an indigenous, rural based Irish industry as well as a sport.  Victory for the Irish trained Jaytee Jet in the English Greyhound Derby has injected fresh impetus into the ability of Irish dogs to win on a global stage.

Larkin came from a regulatory background and has also overseen changes in the way in which dug testing in the sport is handled with the establishment of a new scientific expert group in 2016.


Roma O'ConnorNew Entry: Roma O’Connor is Marketing Director with McDonalds Ireland.  She manages the activation of some of the world’s biggest sports sponsorship activations here in Ireland including those with the Euro’s currently taking place in France, The Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.

At a local level McDonald’s main sporting partnership is with the FAI where it supports the Future Football Programme that reaches out to young players through schools and underage competition.  Working alongside Mo Durkan in communications, O’Connor manages the messaging challenge of a fast food operator sponsoring within sport, albeit one whose support does provide tens of thousands of hours of sporting opportunity that might otherwise not exist.


Tracey KennedyNew Entry: Tracey Kennedy is Vice Chair of Cork GAA County Board.  If process follows its regular path she will step up to the role of Chair in December 2017.  She would not be the first Chair of a County Board, that honour fell to Roisín Jordan of Tyrone but Cork is one of the biggest and highest profile county’s in the game.

Aside from team matters and Cork’s departure from the first round of both the Football and the Hurling Munster Championships, there is also the redevelopment of Pairc Uí Caoimhe on the agenda.  Tackling both of those with a degree of success could propel Kennedy to what has been spoken of in the past that she may become, in time, the GAA’s first Woman President.

Kennedy is a French and History teacher in Youghal.


Muirne LaffanMúirne Laffan is Chief Digital Officer at RTE and has had primary responsibility for the development and growth of GAA Go, the joint venture with the GAA now into its third year of subscription based streaming to international audiences.

In a summer of sport where RTÉ will reach a greater audience than ever before the online and digital services that she oversees are playing an ever more important role.  Changing viewing habits are a challenge for all broadcasters but RTÉ have remained ahead of the curve with the go to site online and on mobile for sports news and a Player service that is adding new content as well as playing back mainstream TV output.

Laffan is on the Executive Board of RTÉ and is a Council Member of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.


Niamh Briggs with the 6 Nations trophy 23/3/2015Niamh Briggs will spend the next year preparing to be the first Irish Captain to lead a team out for a World Cup Finals tournament on home soil.  She will do that alongside her more regular duties as a serving member of an Garda Síochána.  All the evidence to date suggests she will handle the pressure with no bother at all.

Briggs was originally a Gaelic Footballer and has a love of all sport but Rugby caught her eye while studying at Waterford Institute of Technology and with Dungarvan RFC and Ireland is lucky that it did.

Her skill in place kicking is not the product of weeks of intensive coaching with the best in the game. She learned the technique from You Tube. That is an indication of the single minded pursuit of being the best that she has brought to her game and she is one of the most engaging characters you could meet in sport.


Georgina DrummNew Entry: Georgina Drumm is the President of Athletics Ireland.  She became the first woman elected to that position in the history of the sport at the Annual Congress held in April.

To take up the position in an Olympic year and with the sport engaged in a battle to retain its popular status in light of ongoing drugs revelations is to do so at perhaps the most challenging point in its history.

Drumm has a long term association with the sport on a voluntary basis.  She has served a variety of roles at county, provincial and national level, including as Secretary of Athletics Ireland from 2006.  Last year she was awarded the European Athletics Women’s Leadership Award.


Sharon Walsh HeinekenSharon Walsh is Marketing Director at Heineken Ireland. Since joining the brand from Coca Cola in 2011 she has overseen the Irish management and activation of two of the biggest sponsorship deals in sport the Heineken Cup and the Champions’ League.

So succesful was the Heineken Ireland contribution to the partnership first with the Heineken Cup and then with the newly formed European Champions’ Cup that the Irish team were given the lead role in managing the global activation of the brands association with last year’s Rugby World Cup.  The halo effect of these deals sees Heineken as one of the most widely recognised sports sponsorship brands and it has continued to develop taking over the Heineken Tag Rugby Summer Season this year getting closer to grassroots.


Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.49.11 a.m.New Entry: Anne-Marie Hanley is the senior marketing manager with Elvery’s Intersport and is used to going head to head with fellow list member Debbie Byrne of Lifestyle in the battle for spending and awareness among sports and leisure wear consumers.

Elverys are long term backers of Mayo GAA and Tipperary GAA and have two flagship stores at Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium giving the brand as high a profile as any in sport.

With exclusivity deals becoming increasingly the norm for retail and individual teams, this is a world where competition will be intense over the coming twelve months and it is a measure of how leadership in sport is becoming more balanced that the two main players are having their playbook written by women.

Hanley previously worked as a brand manager in Unilever.


Michelle Tanner TCDNew Entry: Michelle Tanner is the Head of Sport at Trinity College Dublin and is the second entry on our list from the world of third level education.

Tanner was behind the recently launched ‘Raising Our Game’ creating a new strategy for sport in Trinity which will enable an investment of about €13m in sports facilities and programmes over the next 3 years.

She has served on the Board of Student Sport Ireland (SSI) for over 16 years. She is also the President of the European Network of Academic Sport Services (ENAS) which has over a 120 members in 22 countries. ENAS is represented at EU level on several EU Expert Groups delivering on the EU Work Plan for Sport (2014 – 2017) and they are partners for the European Week of Sport which takes place this year from the 12th to the 16th of September.

Tanner has responsibility for all sport and recreation in Trinity and is a former Irish Senior International Volleyball player.


Edel McCarthyEdel McCarthy is Group Sponsorship and Activation Manager at Electric Ireland.  Sport plays a major part in the portfolio of assets that the business has built up with Team Ireland at the Olympics the central focus of 2016.

The Power Within campaign is activating across social and mainstream media as the Rio games approach and McCarthy’s decisions on how and why the stars of the summer are promoted will have a major bearing on how the country engages with stars including fellow list members Katie Taylor and Annalise Murphy as well as the team of over 70 athletes heading for the Games.

With the All Ireland Minor Championships in Hurling and Football also part of the mix, there is a broad range of sporting brands for her to activate in the months ahead.


anne-o-leary-150x150Anne O’Leary is one of Ireland’s most influential CEO’s having guided the fortunes here of Vodafone since 2013.  She is also Deputy Vice President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.  Sport is an important part of her personal life as an active triathlete and Vodafone has been a partner of Triathlon Ireland through it’s sustained growth of recent years.

Wellbeing and fitness are key elements of the Vodafone HQ at Sandyford and with the move into Vodafone TV and a soon to be confirmed new commercial partnership which will be the biggest ever within Irish sport, there is no question that O’Leary will be a touchstone for the relationship between sport and business over the coming years.


Gemma Bell DiageoNew Entry: Gemma Bell is sponsorship manager at Diageo. She is responsible for the management and activation of Diageo’s sponsorship portfolio including the Guinness Pro12, Guinness’s official beer partnership with the Irish Rugby Football Union, Leinster and Munster Rugby, Galway, Punchestown and Listowel Races, the GAA,  and Carlsberg’s partnership with the FAI.

Bell started her career at Coca-Cola Hellenic before joining the events team Cool FM and Downtown Radio in Belfast. She spent five years at a Belfast PR consultancy before joining Diageo in 2012. She is now a key influencer of Diageo’s sponsorship portfolio across Europe working alongside Head of Sponsorship Rory Sheridan.


Meta Osborne Turf ClubMeta Osborne is the highest serving official within the multi million Irish Horse racing industry. A qualified vet and former president of the Veterinary Council of Ireland she is a Director of Horse racing Ireland and last year became the first ever woman to be elected as Senior Steward of the Irish Turf Club.

This breakthrough was not only a first for Ireland but in international terms as well.  She is also a successful veterinary practitioner and breeder and is chairing a major task force looking closely at how to make drug testing in the sport as effective as possible.


Annalise Murphy Annalise Murphy brought sailing to life in Ireland four years ago when finishing fourth at the London Olympics.  This time round she has a bigger team travelling with her to Rio and has been working hard to go one better and reach the medals podium.

Andrea Brewster and Saikia Tidey have also qualified to compete at the games but the eyes of the nation will be focused most firmly on Murphy.  She has grown in status since her near miss, winning European Championship gold in 2013 and a Rio medal would lift her sport in terms of participation and commercial interest to a place it has never been before.


Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 7.37.56 a.m.Sinead McNulty is Head of Sport at the Dublin Institute of Technology. DIT has begun the transition to its new campus at Grangegorman and is among the third level institutions most likely to drive sport as part of an overall education in the coming years.

Sport is very much at the heart of what has been the largest single capital building project in the history of Irish state education. McNulty’s role is to manage elite and participation programmes that will make the most of the new facilities.

McNulty sits on the board of Student Sport Ireland and the Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership and has experience of working across local authorities and in business with AIB.


Elaine CareyElaine Carey is the Chief Commercial Officer with Three and in overall charge of the company’s substantial investment in sport through the extended partnership with the FAI.

It was her call to step away from the same level of engagement with the Irish Rugby team having inherited that from the takeover of O2.  The farewell campaign from that was a powerful handing over of partnership assets to raise awareness and money for Ireland’s homeless crisis.

The extension of the FAI deal was signed in advance of the wins over Germany and Bosnia that led Martin O’Neill’s side to France and the brand is making the most of what will be the highlight of the summer through engaging TV advertising content and a Game On 2FM partnership with RTÉ.

Carey has been in senior roles at Three for nine years and before that worked in senior positions at Eircom and Digicel.


Ellen KeaneEllen Keane is a Paralympic triple World Championship medal winning swimmer who is an inspiring role model to young women regardless of ability or disability. Age 20 she has already competed at two Paralympics in Beijing and London and is now preparing for Rio.

Maintaining the balance of her life between training, living as a normal person and studying  culinary entrepreneurship at DIT, Keane is also one of the athletes that lights up a room for commercial partners when playing her part in telling the Paralympic story.

Bright, sparky and willing to overcome every challenge thrown at her, Keane is a star in and out of the pool.  We have yet to meet anyone who has not been completely blown away by her positive outlook on life.


Niamh O'DonoghueNiamh O’Donoghue is Chairperson of the Women’s Committee in it’s new more central role in the governance and structure of the FAI.  She will also be Minister Leo Varadkar’s right hand as Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection.

As Women’s Soccer continues a rapid international growth in terms of media coverage, spectator numbers and commercial partnerships, this is an important time for the FAI to get it right with regards to the Women’s game.  The signs have been good with a new Strategic Plan launched last year and Continental Tyres proving themselves to be a committed and resourceful partner.


LEICESTER CITY CHIEF EXECTUTIVE SUSAN WHELAN Pictures Neil Plumb Photography Telephone : 07814 432792 Email: pics@neilplumbphotography.com www.neilplumbphotography.com

New Entry: Susan Whelan left home in Howth to work for Aer Rianta and has been making something of a splash ever since returning from the Far East to take over as CEO at Leicester City Football Club.

She was instrumental in the appointment of manager Claudio Ranieri, a decision which may have generated the greatest sporting under dog to overload story in sport.

At the time of the appointment she said “”I am very confident that in Claudio we have recruited a manager who has the knowledge, the passion and the determination to ensure the continued growth, development and success for this club, and to fulfil the vision of the owners, and everything that is in the hearts and dreams of the fans.”

It wasn’t met with universal acclaim but history is a great ally when things go right and there is no doubting the massive influence Whelan has had by making a brave call.


Joan O'FlynnJoan O’Flynn is CEO of the Camogie Association. In the past year she has overseen a root and branch review of the sport and produced a strategic plan which is ambitious in its plans for developing the sport.

With the continued momentum behind commercial support for Women in Sport Camogie is well placed to benefit from increased emphasis on giving young girls an opportunity to engage in team sport within their communities.

Attracting bigger attendances to the top games remains a major challenge, especially to the final of the Liberty Insurance sponsored Camogie All Ireland Final in September, but O’Flynn is ready to meet it.


Maev NicLochlainnMaev Nic Lochlainnn is Head of Sports Policy and the National Sports Campus Division at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Working closely alongside Graham Doyle and Ken Spratt she is currently finalising the new National Sports Policy to be published this year and which will define the Government relationship with sport over the next decade.

A former management consultant with PwC, she has held senior public service roles in Communications and Transport as well as with the Dublin Airport Authority.


Jill DowneyNew Entry: Jill Downey is a director of Core Media and heads up their sport and entertainment sponsorship consultancy, Livewire. Livewire came to life in 2015 and has carved out a place for itself in the burgeoning field of sponsorship advice and measurement.

She is currently working with Electric Ireland to understand the effectiveness of their award winning GAA and Olympic partnerships and also negotiated the TV contract for AIB’s highly successful activation of their GAA Club Championship sponsorship which  saw The Toughest Trade air on RTE2 in March.

Downey has an illustrious career in advertising having been Deputy MD of Starcom and is one of a number of strong female advisers helping to steer the commercial relationships between business and sport.


Debbie ByrneDebbie Byrne is the Marketing Director for Lifestyle Sports and is leading the continued surge of growth in sports and leisurewear sales across the country.  Lifestyle has become a major sponsor with an exclusive stockist deal with Munster Rugby, shirt front partnership with Connacht and has been to the fore with launches of the Ireland World Cup kit last year and the Euro 2016 kit in 2016.

New stores are being designed with the latest look towards retail psychology and ‘zoning’ while campaign like ‘Achieve your Awesome have seen the brand push further into the areas of lifestyle, appropriately, and fashion on the gym floor.

Byrne has been an effective and compelling speaker at Sport for Business events in the past and will be again in the future.


Laura DelanyNew Entry: Laura Delany is the Ireland Women’s Cricket Captain at a time when the sport is setting out to become much more part of the mainstream in Ireland.  The team will play six international matches on irish soil this year, giving it a higher profile than ever before and Delany is a confident promoter of the game, despite her youth at the age of only 23.

Alongside vice Captain Kim Garth at 19, she will shoulder much of the promotional responsibility for attracting new players, supporters and partners to the sport.  Having interviewed her on stage at the launch of the Cricket Ireland Strategic Plan there is little question that she will do a great job.


Helen O'RourkeHelen O’Rourke is Chief Executive of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association. Having set a European Attendance record at Croke Park for the All Ireland Final last September O’Rourke secured the biggest commercial sponsorship in Irish Women’s Sport when announcing the support of Lidl in a total package worth €1.5 million in this the first year of a three year deal.

With over 100,000 registered players Ladies Football is the main team sport for encouraging women to play together and as such O’Rourke has a leaders role in ensuring it continues to make the right steps in terms of promotion and engagement with players.  Ongoing discussion around a closer relationship with Camogie and the wider GAA family will also take up time this year but the focus will be on making the most of the Lidl campaigns around the country.


Fiona HamptonFiona Hampton is Head of Sales and Marketing for Ulster Rugby. In the past year Kingspan Stadium became host to the first ‘Destination Final’ for the Guinness Pro12. Over the next twelve months she will be deeply involved in planning for the Women’s Rugby World Cup which is coming to Dublin and Belfast in 2017.

Hampton has built a strong commercial programme at Ulster Rugby in the six years since she joined from the Odyssey Arena. Brands including H§eineken, BT, Kingspan, Bank of Ireland and Kukri have been to the fore along with with other developments in the Belfast business community that have driven up support for the province and season ticket sales.


Cliona-OLeary.Televised sport is changing at many levels but when it comes to the biggest events, the biggest audiences are delivered by the giants of the game and in Ireland that means RTÉ.

Cliona O’Leary is Deputy Head of TV Sport in RTÉ and is central to every decision on how sport is broadcast on TV to the widest audiences in Ireland.  She was a speaker on the first Women in Media panel to focus on Sport this past weekend in Kerry and has also been an informed and insightful contributor to Sport for Business events.

The style of coverage of this summers Euro 2016 Finals and olympics will define how we remember them as a nation and O’Leary will be a key part of determining how those memories are formed.


Aoife LaneAoife Lane is the Chair of the Women’s Gaelic Players Association.  As a lecturer in Waterford Institute of Technology and a Camogie player herself, she took on the mantle off leading Women’s Gaelic Games players in both codes towards a position where they can demand and expect more respect for what they do.

The progress Lane and her team have made in the past year, including a close working relationship with the GPA and a partnership with PwC are down to determination, hard work and being willing to ask questions and look for support when needed.  The players who have made such an impact through first Liberty Insurances sponsorship of Camogie and then Lidl’s support for Ladies Football are WGPA members.  This time 18 months ago that organisation did not exist.


Katie Taylor Gold 2013Katie Taylor is our multiple European, World and Olympic Champion.  That she comes from a sport where she has had to break down more barriers than in almost any other has brought her even closer to the heart of Irish sporting fans.  That she conducts herself with grace and charm outside of the ring endears her to every sports fan from 8 to 80 years old.

When the mainstream media generally talk about and think about Women in Sport it is first to ‘Katie’ that they turn.  That influence over why and how girls can choose to be what they want to be is without doubt right up there making her among the most influential women in a sporting context, if not much wider still.  We wish her well on the journey to Rio and wherever she goes beyond that.


Sarah KeaneSarah Keane is the CEO of Swim Ireland and one of only two women to sit on the Olympic Council of Ireland. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership and the Federation of Irish Sport

Having brought swimming back from the legal and duty of care issues that threatened its existence as a mainstream sport a decade ago Keane is a passionate advocate of the importance of good Governance and also holds strong views on the importance of ensuring that volunteer support is at the right level and with the right commitment to be most effective.


Sarah O'Connor WHSarah O’Connor has previously featured in this list as CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport.  After eight years at the head of that organisation though she stepped away last year to take over as Head of Sport with Wilson Hartnell PR, one of Ireland’s leading PR and Sponsorship consultancies and part of the global Ogilvy Group.

The agency counts AIB, Electric Ireland, An Post and Carlsberg among it’s roster of clients and as sponsorship amounts and terms grow over the next year O’Connor will be a key player in brands deciding where the money should be spent and how assets should be activated.


Sinead GoldrickNew Entry: Sinead Goldrick is a four time all star and former Captain of the Dublin Ladies Gaelic Football team but her position in our list for the first time owes as much to her being the force behind the development of the Game Day App being supported by her employers at the Vodafone Foundation and promoted through the Federation of Irish Sport.

Goldrick is also one of the players to the fore in the powerful Lidl advertising around its sponsorship of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, a campaign that is the most evocative around women’s sport that has ever been given such wide coverage in mainstream media.


Fiona CoghlanFiona Coghlan is managing her transition from leadership on the field as Captain of the Grand Slam winning Irish Rugby team to the same role off the pitch in variety of positions with as much determination and sense of purpose as she showed when leading the only Irish team to ever beat the All Blacks.

She has taken a year away from teaching to explore new opportunities and has become a powerful and engaging advocate for Women in Sport as a regular speaker in the media and at events.

She is Chair of the newly formed Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership which influences one of the largest budgets for sport in the country, and is an effective ambassador for the Women’s Rugby World Cup coming to Ireland in a little over 12 months time.


Dr Una MayDr Una May holds a twin role within Sport Ireland that covers two of the most important areas facing sport.  As Director of Participation and Ethics it falls to her to take responsibility for the maintenance of a clean approach to sport and also to ensure as many people are participating in sport to make the National Physical Activity Plan work.

She is open and honest about the challenges that sport faces.  Speaking to Sport for Business after the publication of a damning WADA report on Athletics in late 2015 she said “There are many parts of the world where strong measures are in place to protect the integrity of sport, where the culture does not accept or support widespread corruption and the values of sport are respected.”  It is her job to make sure that Ireland is seen as a leader in delivering that.


Mary Davis Special Olympics 2016Mary Davis is the Acting Chief Executive of Special Olympics International and has a big year ahead making sure that the legacy of last year’s World Games in Los Angeles is carried through in areas around the world as well as in deciding the future direction of the organisation.

The special place that Special Olympics has in Ireland is not the same the world over but having built that as CEO of the irish arm and then of Special Olympics Europe she is well placed to change that.  No venue has yet been chosen for the next edition of the World Games and while a return to Ireland may not quite yet be on the cards, the impact the Games had in 2003 still reverberates and who knows in future years.


We want to hear from you our readers and members on who you think will make a difference in the world of sport for women in Ireland in 2016.

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