Saluting Cork's inspirational women

To mark International Women's Day we pay tribute to some of the amazing women we've met through Women on Wednesday (WoW!) in the past 12 months
Saluting Cork's inspirational women
Fiona O'Donnell, and Grainne O'Keeffe in hospital, before the kidney transplant operation.

To mark International Women's Day, on Friday March 8, we reflect on some of the amazing women we’ve met in Women on Wednesday! (WOW!) over the past 12 months. Today we celebrate women from all walks of life: businesswomen, stay at home mums, academics, volunteers, sporting heroes — the ordinary and extraordinary. Their stories are a celebration of everything from friendship, to love and romance, writes ELAINE DUGGAN. We reflect on their successes, their losses, their grief, their giving and receiving.

Grainne O'Keeffe and Fiona O'Donnell who completed their first triathlon since Grainne donated her kidney to Fiona last September as she was suffering from kidney disease.
Grainne O'Keeffe and Fiona O'Donnell who completed their first triathlon since Grainne donated her kidney to Fiona last September as she was suffering from kidney disease.

CELEBRATING FRIENDSHIPS

When a mum of three from West Cork needed a kidney transplant, her best friend stepped in to offer her one. A year on from the transplant the duo, Fiona O’Donnell and Grainne O’Keeffe completed a triathlon together and are looking forward to a bright future.

In another story, we celebrated lifelong friends Eleanor Walsh and Nuala Barry, from Ballinlough, who have known each other 73 years. Chris Dunne caught up with the duo, at their weekly meet-up, to chat about their memories of school days, rearing their families, travelling the world and their enduring friendship. Are they the oldest friends in Cork?

Lenore Good and her son Bodhi.
Lenore Good and her son Bodhi.

AMAZING MUMS

There are almost too many wonderful mothers to mention, who graced the pages of WOW!

Lenore Good, of In the Sticks with Six, wrote us a series on her family’s autism journey during which she revealed their struggles to get a diagnosis and supports for their son Bodhi, and are now facing into a second diagnosis of autism, for their daughter Indie.

October was Down Syndrome Awareness Month and mum Orla Brassel, from Douglas, talked to us about her ten-month-old son, Harry, and the joy and happiness that he has brought into their lives — and why she wants to share her family’s story with others in her blog, athomewithharry.

We also shone a spotlight on Mitchelstown mum of eight Teresa Sweeney who battled post-natal depression, grieving the sudden death of her mother who died in a road traffic accident, and how now she’s dedicated to helping others on their weight loss journeys.

Mum of two Mandy Gabriel, who lives in Dripsey, underwent breast cancer treatment and also bravely shared her story of her diagnosis and surgery with WOW! and on her blog, My Wonky Boob.

Some of the colour from the 2018 Evening Echo Women's Mini Marathon. Photo Staff
Some of the colour from the 2018 Evening Echo Women's Mini Marathon. Photo Staff

EVENING ECHO WOMEN’S MINI MARATHON

Thousands of women took part in the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon last September and we featured the stories in advance of some of the women who took part.

GP and mum of three Sarah Fitzgibbon has metastatic cancer. She, along with her daughter Ellen, took part in the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon in aid of the Mercy University Hospital Foundation.

We also spoke to a Ballincollig woman who started running from ESB pole to ESB pole and who now has clocked up more than 100 marathons. Angela Murphy urged other women to find time for themselves and look after their health.

Organisers of Cork Pink Week, Sylvia McHenry and Miriam Healy. Picture: David Keane
Organisers of Cork Pink Week, Sylvia McHenry and Miriam Healy. Picture: David Keane

VOLUNTEERISM/ CHARITY

There is no shortage of amazing deeds by Cork women. Cork hosted its inaugural Cork Pink Week, raising almost €70,000 for Cork cancer services at CUH. We dedicated a special supplement to the week, where women of Cork who survived, or are battling cancer shared their stories.

Other inspirational Cork women were Ursula Beecher, Sinead Pollock (guide), Orla Fitzpatrick and Eimear McCarthy, who were among 20 of the country’s top businesswomen who conquered the Arctic on a 150km trek in aid of Debra Ireland. Two other Cork women, Karen Flemming from Hayfield Collection and Emma Kenneally of Vox Pro, undertake the same challenge this year, on March 19. We wish them luck!

Maeve Dennehy left and her sister Karen right.
Maeve Dennehy left and her sister Karen right.

The love Maeve Dennehy had for her sister Karen was evident when we told their story in WOW!

Maeve hosted a fund-raiser, with more than 550 women, in memory of her sister in aid of Marymount hospital, to show the family’s eternal gratitude to the hospice.

Val Eliffe and Maria Logan, taking part in the Cork Dragons Calendar. Sadly Maria passed away since the photo shoot. 
Val Eliffe and Maria Logan, taking part in the Cork Dragons Calendar. Sadly Maria passed away since the photo shoot. 

Meanwhile, we couldn’t but mention the brave Cork Dragons’ Calendar Girls — who stripped off for a calendar to raise funds for the club.

The Cork Dragons, set up in 2012, are a boating group of breast cancer survivors, friends and family, who paddle 40ft boats with dragon, heads, tails and drums on the River Lee on a weekly basis.

Also, we have to acknowledge the contributions of Fermoy Nurse Geraldine Power, who was honoured for her 50 blood donations — what a self-less life-saving feat.

In the past 12 months also, 80-year-old Elaine O’Connell was recognised for her 50 years of dedication and service to the Irish Girl Guides.

Réidín Beattie of Warrior Botanicals.
Réidín Beattie of Warrior Botanicals.

BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES

From Irene Twohig picking up her Network Ireland award, to Sarah Sexton of Bean Brownie opening her new cafe and bakeshop, to Reidin Beattie selling her organic skincare, Warrior Botanicals, to a large multinational — there was no shortage of business success stories for us to share in WOW! In the past 12 months.

Recently, we caught up with the inspirational Samantha Barry, from Ballincollig, Glamour magazine’s Editor-in Chief — who makes the magazine digital only from this year.

We spoke about her career, past and present, what she does in her downtime and her red carpet appearances.

Artist Paul Dunlea and Cork Jazz Festival Director Sinead Dunphy at the launch of The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2018. Picture Clare Keogh
Artist Paul Dunlea and Cork Jazz Festival Director Sinead Dunphy at the launch of The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2018. Picture Clare Keogh

ARTS / CULTURE

Cork women continue to leave a major impression on the city and county’s entertainment and cultural life.

We shone the spotlight on Sinead Dunphy when she was flying high as director of Cork Jazz Festival last October, while Siubhan McCarthy took over at the helm as Co-ordinator of the Life Long Learning Festival,

We also interviewed The Young Offenders star, actress Hilary Rose (aka mother Mairead from the TV series), whose star continues to rise, thanks to her appearance in the show.

Staying with the silver screen, we also celebrated East Cork-born animator Nora Twomey, who was shortlisted around this time last year for a film she collaborated on with Angelina Jolie.

REMEMBERING LOVED ONES LOST

Baby Sean Curtin was still-born ten years ago. His mum Belinda shared a beautiful story with us of how the family honoured his memory by fundraising for Féileacáin, who supported them after their loss

Founders of Iwish Gillian Keating, Ruth Buckley and Caroline O'Driscoll with Students from Colaiste na Toirbhirte and Ursuline Secondary School Cork City pictured at the first day of I Wish 2019 at Cork City Hall. Picture Clare Keogh
Founders of Iwish Gillian Keating, Ruth Buckley and Caroline O'Driscoll with Students from Colaiste na Toirbhirte and Ursuline Secondary School Cork City pictured at the first day of I Wish 2019 at Cork City Hall. Picture Clare Keogh

INSPIRING A NEW GENERATION

We featured inspiring words from those working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths to mark I WISH, which took place in Cork and Dublin, and was attended by thousands of young students, aimed at encouraging them to take up careers in STEM. The founders are from Cork, Ruth Buckley, Gillian Keating, and Caroline O’Driscoll.

We also shone a spotlight, ahead of Cork Science Week, on the organisers of the event about their love of the discipline, their chosen fields, and why they are encouraging more young women to explore a career in science

Isabel Terry and finance Philip in Philadelphia, USA ,when they got engaged
Isabel Terry and finance Philip in Philadelphia, USA ,when they got engaged

MARKING MILESTONES

Two years ago, when we interviewed Cork women Isabel Terry, life was slipping her by. We caught up with the 43-year-old, 12 months on from her double lung and heart transplant, to talk about her recovery, a wedding proposal and house hunting.

Stephanie Murphy from Youghal, who won Miss International Curve 2018.
Stephanie Murphy from Youghal, who won Miss International Curve 2018.

HOLDING TITLES

Stephanie Murphy represented Ireland in the Miss International Curves contest in the UK and won!

We spoke to the Youghal mum about being a plus size role model, encouraging body confidence and the importance of mental health.

LINC boxing club members back from left, Sabrina Carolan, Sarah O'Sullivan, Ciara Mulcahy, coach; Ruth O'Mahony, Emma O'Reilly and Kerri Carolan with in front sisters Chloe and Jamie O'Herlihy Picture: Eddie O'Hare
LINC boxing club members back from left, Sabrina Carolan, Sarah O'Sullivan, Ciara Mulcahy, coach; Ruth O'Mahony, Emma O'Reilly and Kerri Carolan with in front sisters Chloe and Jamie O'Herlihy Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SPORTS SUCCESS

We shone a spotlight on 40 athletes from Cork who appeared at the ‘Gay Olympics’ last summer in Paris, including a group of women from LINC (Lesbians in Cork), who competed in boxing. Staying with sport, recently we featured Audrey Burkley, an open water swimmer from Blackrock, who is undertaking the 7 Oceans Challenge.

Dr Tara Shine campaigning for climate action in the Antarctic
Dr Tara Shine campaigning for climate action in the Antarctic

ENVIRONMENT

Their latest project is bringing She is Sustainable to Cork this month, but we first shone a spotlight on Dr Tara Shine and Madeline Murray when they set up Plastic Free Kinsale.

Now the duo behind Change by Degrees are blazing a trail in all things environmental.

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