To celebrate International Women’s Day, The Guardian compiled a list of the 50 most influential women in British sport. Number 1 on their list was Debbie Jevans. You’ll probably be hearing much more of her in the next 2 years; she’s CEO of England Rugby 2015. Ms Jevans is the first female chief executive to organise a Rugby World Cup and was the first woman to be appointed Director of Sports for an Olympic Games at London 2012.
What about an Irish list? What women would be on Ireland’s Most Influential Women in Sports list?
Here’s just some of the women that I think might make the list.
Naturally. A list of women in sports wouldn’t be complete without Bray’s very own Katie Taylor. She’s the current Irish, European, World and Olympic champion in the 60kg division. She’s amassed 15 gold medals since 2005. Aside from boxing, Taylor has played soccer for Ireland and Peamount United and Gaelic football for her local club. Not too shabby for a 27 year old! She’s credited with raising the profile of women’s boxing at home and abroad. Katie is aiming to defend her Olympic title in Rio 2016. Few would bet against her achieving that.
I remember where I was when Sonia won silver in the 5000m at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Our school principal let all of us watch the race in the gym. Such was the influence of Sonia O’Sullivan. She was the Irish athlete in the 1990’s and 2000’s and our medal hope at every competition. Her biggest wins are the 5000m gold at the World Athletics Championships in 1995 and her Olympic silver in 2000. She was the first Irish track and field athlete to win a medal since John Treacy took silver in Los Angeles in 1984. There will never be an athlete like Sonia O’Sullivan. She carried the Olympic torch in Dublin in 2012.
Captain of the Irish women’s rugby team, Fiona Coghlan led her team to their first Grand Slam last year. You might remember their final match of the 6 Nations campaign in Milan. It was a low scoring one but it was muddy, wet and freezing. “Ideal conditions for rugby,” as my Dad would say! Last year the loosehead prop was awarded with the Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year award. Coghlan has been involved with the Irish team for 12 years. Women’s rugby made history this weekend as they played their match against Italy at the Aviva Stadium. “It’s important for women’s rugby that we play in the best venue that we have,” said Coghlan. “It is important that the game gets that exposure on the bigger stage. You need to be successful for people to stand up and give you respect.”
You can’t mention camogie without mentioning Angela Downey. She is regarded as the greatest player in the history of the game. The stats speak for themselves. 12 All-Ireland medals, 13 Leinster medals and 8 National League titles at inter-county level. 22 county titles and 6 All-Ireland Club medals with her two clubs St Paul’s and Lisdowney. Angela started playing camogie at nine years old and made her senior debut for Kilkenny in 1970 at the age of thirteen- something that would never happen now. Her career spanned a quarter of a century. Camogie, and in particular Kilkenny camogie, owes her a lot.
You’re probably wondering why I picked a 24 year old sailor from Rathfarnham that no one knew about in 2011 but bear with! Before the last Olympics, I hadn’t a clue what a Laser Radial was but thanks to Annalise Murphy, I know a bit more about sailing. As Irish eyes were watching the boxing ring, a potential medalist was doing her thing in the Weymouth waters. Murphy surprised many by comfortably winning the first 4 days of racing and hopes began to grow. However, a fairytale was not about to come true. She came 4th, and was devastated, naturally. Last year, Annalise won her first major medal – gold at the European Sailing Championships. Everyone will be watching her in 2016 to see if she can go one (or even three) better than London. FYI, a laser radial is a one-design class of a small dinghy built for one person!
I thought about adding Michelle Smith or Michelle de Bruin or whatever she’s calling herself now but she deserves a whole post of her own. Can of worms personified!
Comment below with your picks for the Ireland’s Most Influential Women in Sports. Who would be on your list?