Irish women in sport who have made history throughout the years

Following the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team’s historic win on October 11th, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum has gone back through the years to share other significant sporting achievements by Irish women

On the night of October 11th, the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team made history as they qualified for their first ever major tournament, which will see them compete in the 2023 FIFA World Cup. Over the years, Ireland has seen many of its female sportspeople achieve greatness and make their mark in their chosen sport.

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction for three years in a row (2019, 2020, 2021) at the World Travel Awards, tells the stories of the vital contributions and monumental impact Irish people have made worldwide, including Irish athletes and their achievements. The following women, and their stories of sporting greatness, are just a selection of those who are featured within the vaults of EPIC.

Geraldine Heaney b.1967 – From Armagh

Ice hockey defenceman and coach, Heaney, is a two-time Olympian. She helped secure the silver medal for Canada at the inaugural women’s hockey event at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. At the next winter games, Salt Lake 2002, Heaney gained gold. In 2014, she was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Mabel Cahill 1863-c.1905 – From Kilkenny

Irish tennis player Mabel Cahill and American tennis and golf player Emma Leavitt-Morgan

In 1891, New York resident Cahill became the first foreign player to win the U.S. National Women’s Singles Championship. That same year she also won the Women’s Doubles. In 1892, she won both titles again, adding a third – Mixed Doubles. In 1893, instead of defending her titles, she returned to Ireland.

‘Dangerous’ Deirdre Gogarty b.1969 – From Louth

Deirdre Gogarty blazed a trail for women’s boxing in Ireland and abroad

When the Irish Boxing Union refused to sanction women’s matches in Ireland, Gogarty emigrated to continue pro boxing. She fought 23 times, with 16 wins, five defeats and two draws. In 1996, she fought on the undercard of Mike Tyson v Frank Bruno in Paradise, Nevada and became world champion in 1997. She has served as a role model for Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington. 

Sarah (Fanny) Durack 1889 – 1956 – Australia

Irish-Australian competition swimmer Sarah Fanny Durack

The New South Wales Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Association banned women from any competition where men were present, but Fanny Durack’s (who was born to Irish parents) success drove the public to demand a rule-change. It happened in time for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics where Durack won gold in the 100 metres freestyle race, the only individual swimming event for women.

Learn more about influential Irish athletes and how they made their mark on the world at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.