CAROLINE LYONS, neé Barry, is a history maker at Highfield Rugby Club.
She has just become the club’s first female president and while she may be following in her father’s footsteps, as Mick Barry is a former president of the Cork GAA Board, she is keen to follow her own path and do things her way.
“It is both an honour and a privilege for me to me appointed as President of Highfield Rugby Club,” says Caroline, who lives in Frankfield and who is mother to three sons, Christopher, Stephen, and Andrew.
“Highfield Rugby Club is a great club and it is a thriving club with a fantastic youth squad on board who are now back training,” says Caroline, who intends to further promote the club and to encourage parents to get involved in the club.
People often associate rugby as a male-dominated domain.
“That is true,” says Caroline. “I have to say that I was delighted to be welcomed to Highfield and I was always accepted here.”
She was always on the sidelines at matches after ferrying her eldest son Christopher, to training and to rugby matches.
Caroline was always the dedicated parent who played an invaluable role in club and community, ferrying kids to games home and away, handing out the half-time oranges, washing the match-gear and ensuring both boots and gear were in the car.
Growing up with five brothers; this scenario was nothing new to Caroline.
“Not new at all,” says Caroline. “I grew up with sports enthusiasts. All my brothers played sports and I played camogie myself and a bit of basketball. Back in the day; they were the only accessible sports for women.”
Christopher Lyons got involved in Highfield Rugby Club at a young age.
“He was involved in sport from an early age,” says Caroline, 57. “He played underage with the Barrs. I went to every match and stood on the sidelines. I was your typical sporting parent who was also a taxi driver — that was part and parcel of my role!
“My husband is in the fire service, and he works shifts.”
So Caroline was the chauffeur?
“That’s right,” says Caroline, who was also the main supporter willing her team to victory.
Now Caroline’s role has been elevated to Club President; the first female President of Highfield Rugby Club.
Will she be allocated her own parking space? “Indeed I will!” says Caroline, laughing.
She’ll be at the head of the table.
“I’ll be hosting a pre-match lunch for the teams, both home and away with the vice-president at the club,” says Caroline, who has risen up the ranks.
“That’s always a nice informal occasion where people can mingle and chat,” says Caroline, who post-Covid is looking forward to socialising again.
“I was appointed President just as the lockdown began,” says Caroline.
“So my tenure really begins this year. I am really looking forward to a successful and progressive year in the club.”
Caroline, as a sporting parent, rose up the ranks pretty quickly.
“When Christopher played rugby for Highfield; I was on the committee and my main role was registration,” says Caroline.
Did she think that rugby could be a dangerous sport where injury was a likelihood?
“Oh yes,” says Caroline. “Watching the kids from the sideline my heart used to thump whenever I would hear a thump! I’d feel every bump!
“I remember the eerie moments’ silence when a player would land on the ground.”
Her son, playing junior and minor rugby, played well.
“Christopher won an U19 All-Ireland with Highfield. Later on he went into coaching and refereeing.
“When he began playing rugby at Highfield; he was a Lyons; and so was I. Before then, I was always identified as Caroline Barry because my Dad, Mick Barry was so involved in Cork GAA.”
Now Caroline Barry has made her mark.
“I am an avid Munster rugby fan,” says Caroline. “It is a great game to be involved in and I am delighted with my accolade as club President.”
She is one of the lads; part of the team.
“When the previous President, Mark Franklin, picked me, I was both amazed and elated because I thought he was going against the grain,” says Caroline.
No doubt Caroline, super supporter, super mum and superfan will make her mark as the first female President of Highfield Rugby Club.