Educational, vocational and commercial engagement are core principles in equipping our membership with the skills required to succeed both as professional athletes and successful individuals.


Simon Keogh
Peter O’Mahony
Johnny Sexton
Rob Kearney
Dave Heffernan
Peter McKenna
Iain Henderson
Maura Quinn
Greg O’Shea
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe



As CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, Simon provides assistance to players in areas including employment, taxation and insurance, whilst also dealing with a range of general member services enquiries.

A graduate of University College Dublin, Simon furthered his education with a Diploma in Legal Studies from Dublin Business School, later trained as a solicitor at the Law Society of Ireland and more recently completed a diploma in management in the IMI. In 2011, Simon was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors following a ten-year professional playing career with his native Leinster and with Harlequins in the UK.

During his playing career, Simon was actively involved in both the RPA and IRUPA (now Rugby Players Ireland), with a focus on ensuring the welfare of players, their rights and entitlements. Playing for Leinster and Harlequins, Simon won noteworthy silverware, including the inaugural Celtic League in 2002, the Challenge Cup in 2004 and the Heineken Cup in 2009. Simon also represented Ireland at “A” level.



A former student of the Presentation Brothers Cork school, Peter joined the Munster Academy in 2008 and captained the Ireland U20 side to the Junior World Championships in Japan in 2009. The following year, Peter made his senior Munster debut. Having further outlined his leadership credentials by captaining Munster A to the inaugural British and Irish Cup in 2010, it came as no surprise when he was appointed as captain of the province in 2013 at just 24 years of age.

Peter made his Ireland debut against Italy in February 2012 and would go on to be named as the Young Player of the Year that same season. The flanker played a pivotal role as part of the winning Six Nations squads of 2014 and 2015, while he was also instrumental as Ireland won a Grand Slam in 2018. 

Despite suffering a career-threatening injury against France in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Pete returned to international duty with aplomb and was rewarded with a call-up to the 2017 British & Irish Lions, captaining the side in the first test against New Zealand. 

Peter was appointed to the Executive Board upon the retirement of Paul O’Connell in 2015.



A Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup medal winner with St. Mary’s College in 2002, Johnny made his Leinster senior debut in 2006 against Border Reivers. However, with Felipe Contepomi ahead of him in the pecking order, it wasn’t until he replaced the latter in the crucial Heineken Cup semi-final of 2009 against Munster that he truly announced himself on the rugby stage. Since then Johnny has become one of the best out-halves in the world, picking up several trophies and personal accolades as well as steering the British and Irish Lions to their first series victory in 16 years by beating Australia in 2013.

Johnny has completed a degree in Commerce from UCD. He was also one of the first players to get involved in the Boardmatch scheme that places current players on the board of charities so that they can gain vital social and boardroom experience. Alongside Ronan O’Gara, Johnny supports the No.10 fund which goes towards the Children’s Heart Centre in Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
A leader both on and off the field, Johnny replaced Brian O’Driscoll as Chairman of the Executive Board of Rugby Players Ireland in 2011. However, owing to his playing commitments in France with Racing Metro, Johnny chose to step down from the role but remained on the Board in a non-executive capacity. Upon his return to Dublin in 2015, Johnny became the Leinster representative.


Former Chairman

Rob was born in Co. Louth and emerged as a real prospect whilst playing his schools rugby at Clongowes Wood College. Rob first played for Leinster in 2005 and has since amassed over 180 appearances for the province. During that time he was a member of the triumphant Heineken Cup sides of 2009 and 2012, when he was named ERC Player of the Year. Rob has also played for Ireland on over 70 occasions, winning the Grand Slam in 2009 in addition to the Six Nations titles of 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, he has twice toured with the British and Irish Lions featuring prominently in the Test series of 2009 in South Africa.
Rob attended UCD and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Economics and has also completed an MBA. In addition to his academic and sporting commitments, Rob works as an ambassador for Concern Worldwide Charity.
Rob was appointed to the position of Chairman upon his election to the Executive Board in September 2013. He continued in that capacity until his move to the Western Force in Australia in early 2021. Rob’s passion for the development of the game off the field is evidenced in his willingness to remain involved. 



A Mayo native, Heffernan moved to Blackrock College at 15 before returning out west to line out for Connacht Rugby representative sides. Heffernan ultimately lined out for the senior side for the first time in March 2012 and enters into his tenth campaign with the province this year. 

Having made his Irish debut against the USA in June 2017, Heffernan has had to bide his time on the international stage. Now firmly established in national squads he has added five further caps in recent seasons. 


Non - Executive Director

Having graduated with a law degree from UCD in 1996, Peter subsequently went on to study for a Higher Diploma in Business Studies and a Masters in Business Studies at the Michael Smurfit School of Business. Peter played professional rugby for Leinster for 4 years, earning an international cap, and during this time co-founded Rugby Players Ireland with certain likeminded players from each of the four provincial teams.
Qualifying as a solicitor in 2006, he set up his law firm McKenna Durcan in 2007 and now specialises in commercial, employment, and sports law matters. Peter is also a member of the Technology Committee of the Law Society of Ireland.



An integral part of Ulster Rugby, Iain was appointed to the Executive Board of Rugby Players Ireland following Darren Cave’s retirement in 2019. 

A graduate of the Ulster Academy, Iain made his senior provincial debut against Connacht in April 2012. He is currently the Ulster Rugby captain, assuming the role upon Rory Best’s retirement. 

Having been part of Ireland’s successful Junior World Cup side in 2012, Iain was tipped for a big future on the international stage. Senior recognition duly followed with Iain making his Test debut against South Africa in November of the same year. He continues to be a key member of the Irish squad, reaching his 50th cap during the Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

A member of the Grand Slam winning team of 2018, Iain was also part of the British & Irish Lions squads that traveled to New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa in 2021. 


Non-Executive Director

Maura Quinn was appointed as Chief Executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland in April 2008. As Chief Executive, Maura is responsible for leading the strategic development of the IoD through growing the membership base, expanding the range of programmes and services and building the profile of the organisation.

In September 2008, Maura spearheaded the introduction of the IoD Chartered Director Programme, which is the most sought after and prestigious director qualification in Ireland. She is a leading voice on the importance of director training and board diversity and a keen advocate of the need to improve corporate governance standards and the quality of boards in Ireland.

Prior to joining the IoD, Maura was Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland for eleven years, where she was credited with the resurgence, growth and development of the organisation in Ireland. Having operated at a senior level with UNICEF HQ in New York and Geneva, Maura was also elected Vice-Chair of UNICEF’s Standing Group of National Committees, which generate one third of UNICEF’s income worldwide. 

Having studied Law and Marketing, her career has included a range of senior appointments in both the private and not-for-profit sectors. In 2014, she was appointed as a non-executive director of the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.


Men’s 7s

A Law graduate from the University of Limerick, Greg is a member of the Irish Rugby 7 squad that recently qualified for the World Rugby Sevens Series.

 A former international sprinter, Greg competed at the European Youth Olympics before turning his attentions to rugby. Having won both Munster Schools’ Senior and Juniors Cup whilst at Crescent Comprehensive College, Greg’s on-field reputation began to precede him. He represented his country at various age-grades.

 The Shannon RFC man entered the Munster Rugby Academy in 2014, however injuries hampered his progress. Released in 2017, Greg was approached by Anthony Eddy to link up with the 7s and, following his full rehabilitation, is now considered a key member of the squad.

 Greg has ambitions of becoming a solicitor and hopes to hone his abilities through his involvement on the Executive Board.

Murphy Crowe

Women's 7s

Hailing from County Tipperary and began playing rugby aged 15 in her local club Clanwilliam. She was selected for the Munster Senior 15s side aged 18 and was identified as a talent and invited to play with the Ireland Women’s Sevens.

Since making her senior debut in Guangzhou in 2014, Murphy Crowe has gone on to become the top try scorer for the Ireland Sevens (being the first northern hemisphere player to do so) and last season she was named in the World Rugby Sevens Dream Team of the Year. Amee-Leigh also featured in Ireland’s recent Six Nations campaign and further demonstrated her try-scoring abilities.  


Simon Keogh
Carol Keenan
Pamela Gilpin
Marcus Horan
Aoife Lane
Dr Deirdre Lyons
Dr Emma Burrows
Richard McElwee
Finola Roache
Dr Hannah McCormack
Mark Smyth



As CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, Simon provides assistance to players in areas including employment, taxation and insurance, whilst also dealing with a range of general member services enquiries.

A graduate of University College Dublin, Simon furthered his education with a Diploma in Legal Studies from Dublin Business School, later trained as a solicitor at the Law Society of Ireland and more recently completed a diploma in management in the IMI. In 2011, Simon was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors following a ten-year professional playing career with his native Leinster and with Harlequins in the UK.

During his playing career, Simon was actively involved in both the RPA and IRUPA (now Rugby Players Ireland), with a focus on ensuring the welfare of players, their rights and entitlements. Playing for Leinster and Harlequins, Simon won noteworthy silverware, including the inaugural Celtic League in 2002, the Challenge Cup in 2004 and the Heineken Cup in 2009. Simon also represented Ireland at “A” level.


Player Development Manager - Irish Sevens

Carol Keenan is a registered guidance counsellor and secondary school teacher with over 8 years experience in designing and delivering motivational educational curriculum and providing 1:1 guidance and coaching. Her career journey began at Maynooth University where she graduated with a BA in Finance in 2009 before pursuing teaching in University of Limerick. In 2012 she graduated with a PGDE in Business Education. It was while working as a Business and Economics teacher that Carol also studied a MSc in Guidance Counselling at DCU.

Before starting with Rugby Players Ireland Carol had moved to third level and worked as a career development advisor in NUI Galway which involved developing and delivering career education to undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students. During her time at NUIG  Carol also worked with the sport scholarship students and was recognised by AHECS (Association of Higher Education Careers Services) in 2020 winning the Employability Award for work on the sports scholarship educational programme.

Currently, Carol also runs her own business Carol Keenan Guidance where she provides career guidance and coaching. Through building this business she has continue to develop professionally completely the ACORNS programme to support female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland and she has completed the TASS Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support (TALS) qualification to support athletes. Furthermore, she has had the opportunity to contribute on a European dual career project and provides educational advice to GPA members.

In her spare time Carol spends a lot of time volunteering, specifically with the GAA healthy club initiative and playing Gaelic football.


Player Development Manager - Ulster

Pamela Gilpin joined the organisation in February 2013 and provides support for Ulster based players. Pamela also provides career and personal coaching support for GPA members as well as the PFAI.

Pamela has an MSc in Sport Psychology and before commencing in her current role, she worked at the Sports Institute NI as a Performance Skills Coach delivering Lifestyle support to high performance athletes. Pamela has also worked with the English Institute of Sport as a Performance Lifestyle Advisor providing support for a range of Olympic and Paralympic sports including British Gymnastics, UK Athletics, GB Men’s Wheelchair Basketball and GB Archery.

Additionally, Pamela has a background in business, specifically in personal development and performance management. Having worked for thinkTASC as a Performance Consultant, she helped to develop their in-house performance management system which targeted the development of people, leaders and teams in line with the business needs.


Player Development Manager - Munster

Marcus first joined the Association in February 2014 for a 9-month period as the Player Development Manager for Munster Rugby. In September 2014 he took time out to complete a Masters in Strength and Conditioning in LIT Thurles and Setanta College. He returned to Rugby Players Ireland in September 2015 on a temporary basis for 7 months, before recommencing in a permanent capacity from October 2016.

During his 14 years as a professional rugby player, Marcus enjoyed success on the field with 3 Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam at senior international level, as well as 2 European Cups , 2 Magners Leagues, a Celtic League and a Celtic Cup with Munster. During this time he acted as the representative for the Munster players on the Executive Board from the time that Rugby Players Ireland was formed, culminating in a 3 year period as Chairman from 2007.

As a former professional rugby player, Marcus brings first-hand experience of transitioning from professional sport to his role as the Rugby Players Ireland Player Development Manager for Munster Rugby. Through player engagement and the faciliatation of courses/workshops, Marcus will implement the Player Development Programme through player engagement and facilitation of courses/workshops and education programmes and spread the PDP message amongst corporates, underage and past players.


Player Development Manager (Irish Women's XVs) & Foundation Manager

Aoife is the Player Development Manager for the Irish Women’s XV squad. Through focusing on their individual needs, Aoife supports the players in the management of their busy schedules and facilitating their off-field development.

Aoife also manages the Rugby Players Ireland Foundation. The Foundation is a registered charity which offers supports and emergency financial assistance to members who are experiencing difficult times, hardship or have to retire due to injury. As Foundation manager, Aoife is required to arrange fundraisers, conduct reviews and the processing of applications, updates the charity board on all activities and ensures compliance with the charity regulator. In addition, Aoife also coordinates a wellbeing service for our members.

Aoife has worked with Rugby Players Ireland for nearly 5 years now and has progressed through various roles within the organisation. Aoife has an Honours Degree in English and History from UCD and a Masters in Sports and Exercise Management from the same university. As part of her studies, Aoife’s thesis researched various aspects of coaching and leadership within Ladies Hockey in Ireland. Aoife is currently enrolled in the Professional Diploma in Executive Coaching with the IMI, developing her coaching skills. 

Deirdre Lyons

Head of Player Development & Player Development Manager - Connacht Rugby

Heading up a team of six PDMs, Dr Deirdre Lyons manages the development and delivery of all aspects of the Player Development Programme at Rugby Players Ireland. This includes career, education, personal and financial development as well as player well-being. On the ground, she is also the Player Development Manager for Connacht Rugby where is an integral part of the players’ support team. Her approach is person-centred, where the individual needs of players are assessed, and personal development actions plans are tailored to those needs.

Deirdre joined the Association in 2013 having worked as the Head of Performance Support Services at the Institute of Sport. She is passionate about player welfare and has amassed over 20 years of experience in the coordination and provision of sports science, medical and lifestyle support to players, athletes and national squads in close collaboration with their coaches, managers, performance directors and service providers.

Deirdre is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and obtained her PhD in Sports Psychology in 2016. Her doctoral thesis focused on exploring athletic career transitions in Olympic sports and how frameworks from counselling and sport psychology can be applied to best understand and support athletes during those transitions. Deirdre collaborates closely with Irish and international player associations including FIFPro (the world footballer’s player association), PPF (Professional Players Federation, UK), International Rugby Players and World Players ensuring that Rugby Players Ireland’s programmes and initiatives are constantly measured against international best practice.

Emma Burrows

Player Development Manager - Leinster Rugby

Dr Emma Burrows is a sports and wellbeing coach with 14 years’ experience working with recreational, performance pathway, Olympic, Paralympic, and professional athletes. She works with Leinster Rugby as Personal Development Manager.

She was previously the Player Development Manager for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland where developed and delivered their Personal Development Program including career planning and wellbeing support to professional soccer players.

Emma completed a BSc. in Sport Science and Health in 2013 during which she conducted award winning research on coaches’ attitudes to mental health issues in athletes. She continued her studies in DCU completing her PhD in 2019 following a period of 5 years developing, implementing and evaluating a life skills and career adaptability intervention for Olympic and Paralympic athletes, coaches and support providers which reached over 150 people ahead of the Rio 2016 Games.

Emma has lectured in Waterford IT, Dublin City University and Colaiste Dhulaigh CFE on contemporary issues such as athlete wellbeing, doping, aggression, career transitions and coaching. She has a keen interest in Research Ethics and represented the student body on the Dublin City University Research Ethics Committee.

In addition, Emma is the only female coach of American Football in Ireland where she is the Assistant Head Coach of premier division and national championship finalists the South Dublin Panthers, as well as the Irish National Team – the Irish Wolfhounds.


Email: emma@rugbyplayersireland.ie 


Director of Communications & Legal Affairs

A qualified barrister, Richard is Director of Communications and Legal Affairs at Rugby Players Ireland. His role includes responsibility for all the communication tasks within the association, including the execution of an integrated strategy in support of Rugby Players Ireland’s key goals, whilst he also manages the Agents Registration Scheme. 

Having attained a Masters in International Relations from UCD, Richard proceeded to study Law and was called to the Bar of Ireland in 2013. In addition to a Diploma in Sports Law from the Law Society and an Advanced Diploma in Social Media & Media Law from the King’s Inns, Richard also has qualifications in Sports Psychology and Strategic Communications. A keen writer, Richard is a regular contributor to several websites and publications.

Before joining Rugby Players Ireland in January 2017, Richard practiced at the Four Courts and also gained considerable experience in dealing with some of the country’s top athletes and brands through his work with Line Up Sports Media Entertainment.


Events and Sponsorship Manager

Finola Roache is Rugby Players Ireland’s Event and Sponsorship manager. Her responsibilities include the creation, coordination and execution of Rugby Players Ireland’s Events calendar including the organisation and management of the Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards, the annual Golf Classic and pre-match Clubhouse event. Her role also includes supporting Rugby Players Ireland internal events, including the annual Rugby Players Ireland | IRFU Rookie Camp, the Irish Women’s XVs Personal Development Camp and the provincial Past Player Clubhouse events.

Finola is responsible for liaising with Rugby Players Ireland’s Sponsors and Partners to ensure they are maximising the benefits of their relationship with Rugby Players Ireland and creating innovative ways for our sponsors to engage with our members. Finola graduated with an Honours Degree in Marketing from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, achieved a ‘Highly Commended’ in the ESA Diploma in Sports Sponsorship and holds a Diploma in Public Relations and Event Management from the Fitzwilliam Institute.

Hannah McCormack

Tackle Your Feelings - Campaign Manager

Hannah McCormack is the Campaign Manager for the Tackle Your Feelings mental wellbeing campaign. She is responsible for the strategic development, project management, content creation and practical delivery of Phase 2 of Tackle Your Feelings across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This phase of the campaign builds on the past success of Tackle Your Feelings and embarks on a more focused approach to both corporate wellbeing and, the mental wellbeing of Secondary school students throughout the four provinces of Ireland.

Hannah completed her Doctoral Research at the University of Limerick, which investigated the work-based wellbeing of applied sport psychologists. Her PhD utilised knowledge from work and organisational psychology, applying theory and best practice to the demanding high-performance sports arena. Her thesis focused on the wellbeing of applied psychologists and the symbiotic relationship between their mental health and that of the athletes and support staff they work with. She has published two papers in peer reviewed journals relating directly to her research. Prior to this she received an MSc. in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology from Bangor University, having previously studied for her undergraduate degree in Sport Science and Health (BSc. Hons.) at Dublin City University.

Hannah has completed the Irish Institute of Sport applied mentorship programme, consults with athletes and teams across a range of sports including Rugby (athletes and referees), Swimming, Canoe Polo, Archery and Triathlon. Hannah recently completed the Women in Sport Leadership Programme which was run by Swim Ireland in association with Sport Ireland.


Lead Clinical Psychologist - Rugby Players Ireland Mental Wellbeing Service

Mark Smyth is the lead Clinical Psychologist for Rugby Players Ireland Mental Health service and Clinical Consultant for the Tackle Your Feelings campaign. In 2020 he was the 50th President of the Psychological Society of Ireland.  He is also a Chartered Senior Clinical Psychologist with over 18 years experience.  He works in a Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service and also works therapeutically with all ages in his private practice.  

Mark specialisies in working with clients with difficulties in the areas of anxiety, trauma and self-harm.   He has a deep interest in the psychology of social media, politics & policing. Mark is a frequent contributor in the media on mental health and psychology matters.  You can find out more about Mark’s work at his blog or you’ll find him most often on Twitter.