The final leader we are highlighting for Women in Sport in Sport Week is Carlow Sport Partnership’s very own Coordinator, Deborah Foley. Deborah embarked on her remarkable journey in the world of sports upon graduating from SETU Waterford (formerly Waterford IT) with an Honours Business Degree in Recreation and Leisure Management in 2012. Her post-college experiences took her on an adventure spanning continents and roles, each contributing to her profound understanding and passion for sports development.

Starting as a gym and swim instructor in various leisure centres, Deborah’s path led her to Alaska in 2016, where she volunteered with a charity for individuals with disabilities. This experience abroad broadened her perspective and deepened her commitment to inclusivity in sports.

Upon returning home, Deborah embraced roles that allowed her to make a tangible impact on sports development in Ireland. From her tenure as a Development Officer for Triathlon Ireland to her work with Kilkenny Recreation and Sports Partnership and GAA Handball, Deborah’s dedication to empowering communities through sports shone through.

Her journey continued as she took on the role of Kildare Healthy Ireland Coordinator, advocating for holistic health and well-being through physical activity. However, it was her return to Carlow Sports Partnership in January 2021 that marked a significant milestone. Initially appointed as the Community Sports Development Officer, Deborah’s exceptional leadership and dedication led to her appointment as Acting Coordinator in November of the same year. By June 2022, she had assumed the permanent role of Coordinator, a testament to her unwavering commitment and expertise.

In her role, Deborah oversees the partnership’s activities and collaborates with individual partners to promote and develop physical activity at the county level. From day-to-day operations to strategic planning and financial management, Deborah ensures the partnership’s success while representing Carlow Sports Partnership at national forums.

Reflecting on her journey, Deborah had this to say:

“I have worked very hard over the last 12 years to create a positive reputation in the sporting landscape in Ireland and to earn the role I have now. From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to work in sport, but it wasn’t until I experienced working with elite athletes that I realised my true passion lay in participation. Breaking down barriers and helping people experience and realise that physical activity is not the same as competitive sport has made my life worth living.”

“Women in Sport week holds a very special place in my heart. As a young girl playing county and club football and camogie, we had to fight for everything – playing at senior county level was the first time I ever received a free pair of football socks. There was no coverage of games or hordes of supporters. To see the world that young women have open to them now brings me so much joy, knowing that in some small way I helped pave the way.”

As Deborah aptly puts it, “My generation and the generations before me walked so that women and girls today can run.” Her journey exemplifies the transformative power of sports and the profound impact of dedicated individuals like her in shaping a more inclusive and equitable sporting landscape.