Women in Sport 2017 – Helen O’Rourke

Sport for Business, in partnership with Liberty Insurance, is publishing our third annual list of the 50 Most Influential Women in Irish Sport.

This is not about Women’s sport, it is about the influence that women are wielding across all sport.  We will identify leaders on and off the field of play.  They will include those who are role models in terms of their abilities on and off the field of play.  They will come from teams and individual sports, from sponsorship partners, from the media, from the administrative corridors of power and from places where influence may be subtle but no less powerful.

Helen O’Rourke


Helen O’Rourke became the first employee and the first CEO of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association 20 years ago last September.

She celebrated the anniversary by welcoming 46,286 people to the All Ireland final between Dublin and Mayo, a 10,000 increase on the previous record set 12 months previously.

She has been the guiding force behind the growth of Ladies Football to the position of strength it is in today.  Even more exciting is the potential it has to go further, riding the coattails of a surge of respect for and interest in Women’s sport that is prevalent across the world but rarely quite so well encapsulated as in the sport she runs.

It is within touching distance of 200,000 players across all counties of Ireland.  It drew a TV audience of 563,000 to watch the Final in September televised by and supported in many other ways too by TG4.

It is not even two years since O’Rourke was on hand to welcome Lidl on board as Official retail Partner and the promotion and marketing they have put into the sport has been a key factor in the rapid growth.

It wasn’t always thus.  O’Rourke was a teacher in North Dublin in 1986 when she put her hand up as Secretary of the Dublin County Board to try to get more schools involved.  A decade of voluntary effort led to her becoming the first CEO and that was the start of the long road that has led to 2017.

She has been a keen supporter of Sport for Business and spoke recently at our Women in Sport Conference at UCD.  The fires of ambition for the sport she loves burn as bright now as they did 20 years ago.  There is plenty more to come.

Mary Davis, Special Olympics

Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympian

Sinead Galvin, Galvin Sports Management

Evanne Ní Chuillin, Joanne Cantwell and Jacqui Hurley, RTÉ

Louise Kidd, AIG Insurance

Ellen Keane, Paralympian

Siobhan Earley, Gaelic Players Association

Maeve Buckley, Line Up Sports

Suzanne Eade, Horse Racing Ireland

Sinead Heraty, Irish Ladies Golf Union

Sinead Kissane, Journalist at TV3

Irene Gowing and Sorcha Fennell Sheehan, Bord Gais Energy

Jo Donnellan, Sponsorship Manager at Heineken

Elaine Carey, Chief Commercial Officer Three Ireland

Sarah O’Connor, Head of Sport at Wilson Hartnell

Georgina Drumm, President at Athletics Ireland

Sue Ronan, Head of Women’s Football at FAI

Fiona Hampton, Head of Sales and Marketing at Ulster Rugby

Karen Campion, Head of Business Partnerships at FAI

Miriam Malone, CEO at Paralympics Ireland

Cliona Foley, Journalist

Cliona O’Leary, Head of TV Sport at RTÉ

Edel McCarthy, Sponsorship Manager Electric Ireland

Lisa Browne, Head of Marketing Electric Ireland

Sarah O’Shea, Honorary General Secretary at Olympic Council of Ireland

Helen O’Rourke, CEO at Ladies Gaelic Football Association

Kelli O’Keefe, Teneo PSG

Jennifer Gleeson, Sponsorship Manager at Diageo

Mary O’Connor, CEO Federation of Irish Sport

Carol McMahon, Ulster Bank

Deirdre Ashe, Liberty Insurance

Sian Gray, Head of Marketing at Lidl

Roisin Glynn, Social media Manager at AIB

Michelle Tanner, Head of Sport at Trinity College

Gemma Bell, Sponsorship Manager at Bank of Ireland

Tracey Kennedy, Chair Cork County GAA Board

Katie Taylor, World Champion Boxer

Joy Neville, Referee

Niamh O’Donoghue, FAI Board Member

Joan O’Flynn, CEO Camogie Association

Lindsay Peat, Rugby Player

Annalise Murphy, Olympian Sailor

Dee Forbes, Director General at RTÉ

Emma Byrne, Footballer 

Fiona Coghlan, Grand Slam Rugby Winning Captain

Dr Una May, Head of Participation at Sport Ireland

Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone

Cora Staunton, Ladies Gaelic Footballer

Sarah Keane, President Olympic Council of Ireland

Jessica Harrington, racehorse trainer and Irish Times Sportswoman of 2017

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