09 March, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

IRFU Explain Importance of Self-Confidence In Women on International Women's Day

International Women’s Day had its desired effect.

Not only did it allow women across the world to celebrate themselves, their mothers, their daughters, their other relatives and their friends, it also grasped the attention of men everywhere. From The Rock’s Instagram post in Los Angeles to President Moon-Jae In’s official statement in South Korea, everyone wanted to be involved in International Women’s Day.

Posting to Instagram or making a statement that will be soon forgotten is important for awareness but doesn’t offer any tangible action in our day-to-day lives.

During LiveWIRe2021, an IRFU web panel that took place on International Women’s Day, prominent women in Irish Rugby discussed the need for creating confidence in young women at the start of their careers in Sports and how it can benefit them over the long term.

Ann Heneghan didn’t have any representation when she was growing up in Mayo. She began her career in rugby as the PRO for her local club. Her brothers were known in rugby circles, which bought her some acceptance from the men in the rooms she walked into, but that was it. She never imagined that she’d become President of Connacht rugby, the first woman President of any rugby Province in Ireland.

“Men having been involved for 15-20 years kind of expect to be president. I had been involved for 30 years and the idea had never even entered my head. That’s the one thing that I hope me being here will change. Other women will go ‘Hang on I’ve been involved for 30 years if she deserves a role like that then I do as well.’”

“That’s why International Women’s Day is fantastic. It can showcase women that have progressed in different areas and for young girls coming up to just have some self-confidence. Have belief in yourself. Just get in there and get stuck in. We can be an asset to any place we want to be.”

She worked her way up from the bottom and while she was alone at first, now there are more women taking over prominent roles in rugby.

“We are getting recognition,” Heneghan told host Eimear Considine, “Women in rugby is certainly becoming more common now. There are a couple of junior vice presidents in Connacht at different clubs which was unheard of 10 years ago.”


10 years ago, Considine was growing up in a sports environment that is very different to the one that exists for young women today. Currently a winger for the Irish rugby team, she echoed the sentiment that Heneghan offered about the need to believe in yourself.

“[Some people suggest that] a woman won’t apply for a job unless they’re 110% qualified and sometimes men will be 70% qualified and they’ll back themselves and believe themselves and go for that job.”

“The hurdles and obstacles aren’t necessarily the men in charge who are already there. It’s us as women that we need to realize that yes, we’re more than capable of filling this duty and to put yourself forward. If we’re going back to the International Women’s Day motto it’s to choose to challenge yourself, to put yourself in those positions.”

Considine recalled her recent opportunity to feature on the first all-female broadcasting team for a Leinster Pro 14 matchup last November, “TG4 have been great for women’s sports…they’ve really been forward thinking. [Everyone who did that game are] all amazing at what they do. It’s not because they’re females. It’s because they’re the best person for the job and that’s the most important thing. We’re not putting a token female on a panel because we have to. That’s the key message I was trying to convey as well, everyone is more than capable of being in those positions.”

Neither Considine nor Heneghan see themselves as the exceptions. Both believe their paths to their positions of prominence in rugby are attainable for anyone who is committed and confident in their work.

Rather than consider themselves inspirational, both preferred to just point out what’s possible. To let women know that they can do this because it’s been done.

Whenever a section of society isn’t treated equally it’s often put on them by those who are unaffected to fix it themselves. If women alone could create equality, then we would already have equality. Men play an important role in shaping our society because most positions of authority are still filled by men.

For example, Dr Priya Raj noted that 72% of senior academics with professor status in the UK are male despite near equal numbers working across wider academia.

We can only move forward as a society together. Men acknowledging the need to create opportunities for women is vital. As those opportunities become more plentiful, women need to have the self-confidence to take them. This intersection of opportunity and ability is what led to the recent success of the Irish women’s rugby team.

The IRFU have invested in developing women as players, which has led to opportunities in other roles related to rugby. For example, Lynne Cantwell, a Portobello Institute graduate, was recently hired into a position of leadership with the South African Rugby Union.

As more women are encouraged to play sports at a young age, more women will look for opportunities related to sports surpassed just playing later in life. At Portobello, we are already training the next wave of elite sports professionals.

You can develop your skill set, your self confidence and your career with us.

If you are interested in a career in sports, you can find a course that suits you in our Sports Department. If you’d like to talk to someone about the different degrees and certificates available at Portobello, you can call course advisor Johanna Shaw at 01-892-0024 or send her an email at jo.shaw@portobelloinstitute.com.