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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

Women in Sport: Irish Rugby player Maeve Óg O’Leary


By Sarah Gill
19th Feb 2024
Women in Sport: Irish Rugby player Maeve Óg O’Leary

In this instalment of our Women in Sport series, we hear from Maeve Óg O’Leary on her sporting journey so far…

Maeve Óg O’Leary was born and raised in Ballina, Killaloe, and is the youngest of five kids, all of whom played a lot of GAA and rugby growing up. Here, the Munster back-row shares everything from her earliest memories on the pitch to her biggest goals and sporting inspirations…

Maeve Óg O’Leary

Name: Maeve Óg O’Leary.

Profession: Professional rugby player as well as intern at Wilson Hartnell on the sports team.

Earliest sporting memory?

My earliest sporting memories are certainly being in and around our local GAA club from the age of four. My family and I spent a lot of time up there, either watching my siblings or training myself. My dad was one of my coaches.

How did you become involved in your sport?

My brother is a professional rugby player so rugby has always been a big part of my family but there was no girls’ team in my town until I was 15. So, when it was started up, I decided to go down and give it a go and I loved it.

What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?

A message I would share is to be a sponge, always be looking to learn more and get better no matter what stage of your career you’re at.

Proudest moment so far…

My proudest moment so far is definitely my first cap for Ireland. It was very special to have all of my family there with me.

The female athlete I admire most is…

Ciara Griffin because she is a great leader on and off the pitch for women’s rugby as well as being a class player.

My favourite sporting memory…

Is winning the back-to-back interpros with Munster. I really enjoy playing in the Munster jersey, it comes with a huge feeling of pride.

Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?

Absolutely. While so many individuals and organisations are doing great work to close the gap, there is certainly still stigmas around women in sport, more so in other countries than Ireland.

What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?

Lack of funding and in some sports, lack of games.

The biggest stigma/misconception that exists in women’s sport is…

The comparison to men’s sport – it is a unique product so they shouldn’t always be compared.

If I wasn’t an athlete I would be…

Working full-time in sports sponsorship or as a radio presenter.

My favourite pre-match meal is…

Pancakes, fruit, yoghurt and honey.

My pre-match playlist features…

Jazzy, Fred Again, and Kingfishr.

My daily routine is…

Wake up and train from about 8am-2pm, then work with Wilson Hartnell from about 3pm-6pm and then I have the evening to review training, do some jobs around the house or travel to some other rugby training whether that be with Munster or Blackrock.

My biggest sporting goal is…

To continue playing for Ireland and hopefully competing in a Rugby World Cup.

Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise)…

Canterbury.

Biggest splurge to celebrate a win?

Spending time with my team-mates and sharing the best memories from the campaign so far.

How do you mind your mental health?

Ensuring you have downtime to yourself as well as self-care, no matter what that is – getting coffee, spending time with family, getting your nails done. I find journalling always helps too.

I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night because….

Recovery is extremely important and it gives me the ability to be able to be able to perform to the best I can each day.

Confidence, to me, is…

Being as prepared as possible before any performance, being yourself no matter what!

How do you get over a bad performance?

Watch it back, review it and learn from your mistakes. When looking back at the performance, I question why I might have done something and what I could do better next time.

Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of the community, on a club, local, national and personal level?

Sport is something that brings all different types of people together no matter the background. Sporting events bring thousands of people together for the love of one thing and I think that is pretty cool!

This article was originally published in September 2023.