About
Us

OUR THREE PILLARS

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.

EXECUTIVE
BOARD

Simon Keogh
Rob Kearney
Johnny Sexton
Peter O’Mahony
Eoin McKeon
Peter McKenna
Shane Jennings
John Treacy
Darren Cave

Simon
Keogh

CEO

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.

Rob
Kearney

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 of the Board upon his election in September 2013. Rob is passionate about developing the game off the field so that the professional game continues to progress.

Johnny
Sexton

Leinster

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.

Peter
O’Mahony

Munster

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. Despite suffering a career-threatening injury against France in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Peter returned to international duty and captained his country for the third time when Ireland faced Canada in November 2016.
Peter was appointed to the Executive Board upon the retirement of Paul O’Connell in 2015.

Eoin
McKeon

Connacht

Having made his professional debut away to Scarlets in April 2010, Eoin McKeon has amassed over 100 caps for his home province and is now considered one of the senior members of the Connacht squad. A graduate of the Connacht Academy, the 26-year-old has represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level, while in the summer of 2013, he travelled with the Emerging Ireland squad to Georgia to play in the Tsbili Cup.

A former player representative, McKeon replaces Ronan Loughney on the Executive Board following the latter’s departure from the Sportsgrounds at the end of the 2016/2017 season.

Peter
McKenna

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.

Shane
Jennings

Past Player

Shane was born in Dublin and schooled at St. Mary’s College where he was earmarked for a career in the game following some influential displays in the Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup. A member of the Leinster squad since 2002, Shane moved to the Leicester Tigers in 2005 where he enjoyed two successful seasons alongside Leo Cullen, winning the English Premiership in 2007. Returning to his native Dublin the following season, Shane has been credited with changing the mentality of a Leinster side who would go on to win the Heineken Cup in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Shane also appeared for Ireland on 13 occasions.
 
Beyond the field of play, Shane has completed a Bachelor of Arts in Business Studies in Portobello College and an MBA with the Dublin Business School. He is currently part of the management team at Home Instead Senior Care. Furthermore, Shane has been involved with many charities throughout his career and currently sits on the board of the Ronald McDonald House, which was organised by Boardmatch. His involvement with Rugby Players Ireland stretches back for many years, but most recently he was appointed to the Board as the past-player representative while he is currently acting as an ambassador for the Tackle Your Feelings campaign.

John
Treacy

John Treacy

John was invited on to the Rugby Players Ireland Board in September 2012 and he brings some valuable consulting experience and analytical skills to the team. He worked for two global consulting firms in Chicago and Dublin, before setting up his own consulting firm in 2004, Treacy Consulting. His firm has over 50 international and national client companies, across nearly 40 different industries. John and his team specialise in strategy consulting, strategic research & analysis, organisational effectiveness, change management, start-up strategies, venture fundraising, and sales and marketing strategy.

John also brings experience from other Board and committee memberships, including, the Docklands Business Forum and The DDDA Council. He has also held a range of officer positions in Old Belvedere RFC and he is still playing rugby

Darren
Cave

Ulster

An integral part of Ulster Rugby for over a decade, Darren was appointed to the Executive Board of Rugby Players Ireland in August 2018.

A graduate of the Ulster Academy, Darren first made his senior provincial debut against Border Reivers in April 2007. He is currently Ulster’s third most-capped player behind Paul Marshall and Andrew Trimble, whom he replaces on the Board.

Having been part of Ireland’s U20s Grand Slam success in the 2007 Six Nations, Darren was tipped for a big future in the game. Senior recognition duly followed with Darren making his Test debut against Canada in May 2009. He has added a further 10 caps and featured in Ireland’s 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.

Often the subject of ill-timed injuries, Darren has made several remarkable comebacks, not least in helping Ulster reach the final of the Heineken Cup in 2012. The following season he was an ever present as Ulster made it to the PRO12 Final. His resilience and dedication to the cause has marked him out as a leader within the current squad.

OUR TEAM

Simon Keogh
Nancy Chillingworth
Pamela Gilpin
Marcus Horan
Aoife Lane
Dr. Deirdre Lyons
Christina Mahon
Richard McElwee
Finola Roache
Créde Sheehy-Kelly
Dr Ella McCabe
Denis Hurley

Simon
Keogh

CEO

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.

Nancy
Chillingworth

Player Development Manager

Nancy works with Rugby Players Ireland as Player Development Manager for Women’s 7s and 15s.
Previously, Nancy was the Performance Director for Paralympics Ireland for the London 2012 cycle and this phase culminated in the Irish team exceeding all targets and winning an unprecedented 16 medals. Through her work across a range of high-performance programmes, Nancy has been able to critically evaluate programmes from a performance perspective with a focus on the ability of a sporting organisation to set and achieve challenging targets. Furthermore, Nancy has worked directly with elite level athletes on personal performance planning. Nancy’s experience also includes a clear understanding of key stakeholder relationships and working with multiple agencies to achieve success.

Following a BA in Psychology in Trinity College, Nancy completed an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology in University of Wales, Bangor. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and is currently a board member of a national school. She also works as a sport performance consultant and has recently completed work on the Rio 2016 Olympic debrief process across several sports for Sport Ireland.

Pamela
Gilpin

Player Development Manager

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.

Marcus
Horan

Rugby Players Ireland Player Development

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.

Aoife
Lane

Player Services & Foundation Manager

As Player Services Manager Aoife is responsible for the daily delivery of all services provided to our members, supporting the execution of the Player Development Programme and assisting the Player Development Managers within their respective provinces. Aoife also leads the Rugby Players Ireland Foundation which offers emergency support to players who have unfortunately sustained a career ending injury or are experiencing hardship. 

Aoife has an Honours Degree in English and History from UCD and has more recently graduated with Masters in Sports and Exercise Management from the same university, where she spent several months researching a thesis based on coaching and leadership in Ladies Hockey in Ireland. Before joining Rugby Players Ireland in August 2016, Aoife worked in the Food and Beverage industry whilst completing her studies.

Dr.
Deirdre Lyons

Player Development Manager

Heading up a team of five staff members, Dr Deirdre Lyons manages the development and delivery of all aspects of the Players 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.

Deirdre joined the Association in May 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.  

A graduate of the University of Limerick (Sports and Exercise Science), Deirdre has completed a PhD in sports psychology, focusing on athletic career transitions. Deirdre meets regularly with other Irish associations including the GPA, PFAI and the Sport Ireland Institute. She also collaborates closely with international player associations and is a member of the Professional Players Federation ‘Education and Training Committee’ and an expert partner on a European funded project with FIFPro (the world footballer’s player association). Furthermore, she works closely with International Rugby Players and is a member of the World Players ‘Development Committee’. Thus ensuring that Rugby Players Ireland’s programmes and initiatives are constantly measured against international best practice.

Christina
Mahon

Community Engagement Manager

Christina Mahon is the Community Engagement Manager at Rugby Players Ireland and manages all aspects of community engagement, while assisting the Injured Players Fund and the Tackle Your Feelings Campaign. Through her role, Christina adds value to both our organisation and to the lives of our members.

With an honours BSc. in Marketing Communications from The Institute of Technology Tallaght, Christina has furthered her experience in Communications and Event Management in working across hospitality, entertainment, sports and consumer PR sectors. She has also dealt with some of the country’s top athletes whilst  working with sports management agency Navy Blue before her role at Rugby Players Ireland. 

Richard
McElwee

Communications Manager & Legal Counsel

Richard is Communications Manager and Legal Counsel at Rugby Players Ireland and is responsible 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 also managing 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, Richard also has qualifications in both print and broadcast media. As an accredited journalist, he has made regular contributions to several websites and publications in a sporting capacity given his keen and active interest therein.

Before joining Rugby Players Ireland in January 2017, Richard practiced at the Bar 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.

Finola
Roache

Event and Marketing manager

Finola Roache is Rugby Players Ireland’s Event and Marketing manager. Her responsibilities include the creation, coordination and execution of Rugby Players Ireland Events calendar including the organisation and management of the Zurich Irish Rugby Awards, the annual Golf Classic and pre-match Clubhouse event. Her role also includes the management of the Rugby Players Ireland brand.

Finola graduated with an Honours Degree in Marketing from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, completed a professional diploma in Digital Marketing with the Marketing Institute of Ireland and holds a Diploma in Public Relations and Event Management from the Fitzwilliam Institute. She has previously worked as an office manager for a busy IT services company and completed an internship with one of Ireland’s premium communications companies.

Créde
Sheehy-Kelly

Tackle Your Feelings - Campaign Manager

Créde Sheehy-Kelly 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 Tackle Your Feelings across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Créde joined Rugby Players Ireland in 2015 as Player Development Manager for Leinster but with the growth of the campaign has since moved into her current role on a full-time basis.

Créde brings significant experience to the Rugby Players Ireland team as a PSI Chartered Sport and Performance Psychologist with a particular interest in athlete welfare and the impact that wellbeing has on performance. Through her consultancy business, Tiger’s Eye Performance, Créde has extensive experience working with a wide range of professional and elite athletes and corporate clients to enhance performance and wellbeing at individual and group levels. Créde’s professional qualifications include a first-class MSc in sport and exercise psychology, a BA in psychology and accreditation with the Irish Institute of Sport to provide sport psychology support to high performance and Olympic athletes.

Dr
Ella McCabe

Player Development Manager - Leinster

Dr Ella McCabe is the Player Development Manager for Leinster. She joined Rugby Players Ireland in November 2016. Ella holds a BA Hons, MSc and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Trinity College Dublin and has been involved in the assessment, formulation, design and implementation of wellbeing interventions within sports, health, mental health, social care, forensic and brain injury populations. Ella is a Dublin native who has worked and studied in eight different countries, most recently for the NHS in London where she also provided support to Watford Ladies WSL Football Club.

As Leinster Player Development Manager Ella provides one to one support to players around the Player Development Programme’s five pillars of player wellbeing, career advice and guidance, education, training and skills, social engagement and financial management. She facilitates workshops in these areas, liaises with businesses and non-profits to develop mentoring and community engagement opportunities and provides transition support to players.

Ella is also a PSI registered Senior Clinical Psychologist and is Head of the Player Wellbeing Programme at Rugby Players Ireland. She is involved in the development of a nationwide network of mental health professionals and in delivering confidential tailored interventions to players in need of support. She creates and sources mental health workshops for elite athletes. Ella is the Clinical Advisor of a Trinity College Dublin study of brain health and wellness in retired professional athletes.

Denis
Hurley

Operations Manager

Former Munster and Irish player Denis Hurley joined Rugby Players Ireland in May 2018, following some time abroad. In his role as Operations Manager, Denis will act as a key point of contact for all of our members, past and present. 

Given his extensive playing experience that includes 166 Munster appearances, a Heineken Cup, two Pro12 successes and an Irish cap, Denis can draw upon his wide rugby network and further develop the Past Player Clubhouse at Rugby Players Ireland. Furthermore, Denis will work alongside Simon Keogh in all negotiations with the IRFU as well as continuing and developing commercial relationships and helping to coordinate Rugby Players Ireland events.