Cork women to watch in 2023

MARTHA BRENNAN had a difficult task to list Cork women whose star is on the rise in 2023.... but here are a few of our ‘Ones to Watch’
Cork women to watch in 2023

Bad Sisters will be back for a second series. Pictured, Eve Hewson, Sharon Horgan, Anne-Marie Duff, Eva Birthistle and Sarah Greene (from Cork).

Sarah Greene, actress

WE’LL happily be seeing more of Cork actress Sarah Greene this year when Bad Sisters returns to our screens.

The hit show’s leading ladies made headlines last month when they were incorrectly referred to as British. Greene, a Glanmire native and former Cork Person of the Month, told her Instagram followers that she was “definitely Irish but more importantly from Cork”.

Broadcaster Deirdre McCarthy

Cork broadcaster Deirdre McCarthy was recently appointed as the Managing Director of RTÉ News & Current Affairs, making her the first woman to hold the position. McCarthy, a Cork city native and UCC graduate, has worked in various integral roles across RTÉ over the years and will join the company’s Executive Board as part of her new role.

Beth O’Brien, baker

Having trained at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, this Cork-based baker has just launched a calendar featuring 12 delicious tried-and-tested pastry recipes that will help support the RNLI.

Beth’s 17,000 Instagram followers have also been supporting her page @bethcooksthings as she sets up her own business, which is sure to flourish in 2023.

Filmmaker Sinead O’Loughlin

A lot of people have been talking about Cork-based writer and director Sinead O’Loughlin since her short Lamb, which was filmed in Cork, premiered in 2022. And for good reason - Lamb was selected to feature in the renowned Tribeca Film Festival in June and received an award from Screen Ireland.

Writer Sara O’Donovan

A former equestrian journalist, Sara O’Donovan is not only the manager of the West Cork Literary Festival, but her novel Within You, Without You was also published in November, 2022.

Janna Mullaney, entrepreneur

Janna Mullaney’s online shop,, is far from a snooze. The website only stocks products from other female-owned businesses and has been steadily growing, with a brick and mortar store planned for Midleton this year.

Miss Ireland, Ivanna McMahon (27), a Cork graduate.  Picture: Brian McEvoy
Miss Ireland, Ivanna McMahon (27), a Cork graduate.  Picture: Brian McEvoy

Ivanna McMahon, Miss Ireland

The Rebel County took back the Miss Ireland crown in 2022, when UCC graduate Ivanna McMahon won last year’s competition.

The doctor and harp player will represent Ireland in the next Miss World competition and has also recently launched a podcast, You Can Say That Again.

Laura Behan, hotel manager

Few hotels have as big a name as Ballymaloe House, and the woman managing it all in 2023 will be Laura Behan, who was appointed as the hotel’s General Manager last year after successfully managing The Montenotte Hotel for nearly three years.

Irene Twohig, business owner

A former Cork Business Woman of the Year, Irene Twohig is sure to continue to make her mark on the Rebel County in 2023 as the owner of Ketogym, Soma Coffee and Burnt Pizza.

Niamh Hegarty, cook and entrepreneur

The past few years have been busy for Cork native Niamh Hegarty. The Ballymaloe-trained cook had her food truck, Niamh’s Larder, featured on RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks in 2021, and her water kefir, Bkultured, won silver at last year’s Blas na hEireann awards.

Linda O’Flynn, founder of Terra Ignis

Linda O’Flynn is one half of Terra Ignis, the fermentation start-up that is brewing up a storm at Cork’s English Market. As a herbal expert and former Diageo World Class award winner, Linda has also been heavily involved in menu development at Cask Cork.

Judy Russell, video expert

Having worked in 11 countries and been involved with The Young Offenders and The Fear, Judy Russell founded The Vidcademy to demystify the video production process for businesses.

In November, she was recognised by The Club Women’s Network as Solopreneur of the Year.

Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch, author

It took a few years for Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch to write her first novel The Girl With Special Knees, which was inspired by her daughter. However, the Glanmire resident already has a second book written and plans to turn her work into a trilogy.

Hannah O’Shea. Picture: Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane
Hannah O’Shea. Picture: Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Swimmer Hannah O’Shea

Cork teen Hannah O’Shea swam into the history books last year as the first female to win the Lee Swim. The 17-year-old has been competing at a national level since 2018 and finished ahead of more than 500 competitors, completing the 2km course in under 23 minutes.

Ezara Ahern, PR expert

Ezara Ahern, a successful public relations manager, is the incoming Chair for the Marketing Institute of Ireland Cork. The decision isn’t surprising, seeing as the communication expert has more than 10 years of experience working in both London and Cork.

Hannah Barrett-Byrne, cafe owner

Hannah Barrett-Byrne launched her coffee business, Wild + Tame in a horse box during the pandemic. Fast forward two years and the Kinsale resident has just opened a bricks and mortar location in one of the town’s prime locations, where she serves locally produced coffee and pastries and sells crafts from Irish makers.

Videographer Leah Barbour

A self-described “one woman band”, Leah Barbour is using her videography talents to help small businesses through her company, Penny Productions.

Leah has nearly a decade’s experience and has worked with a number of notable Cork clients already.

Claire Keane, baker

Claire opened Second Street Bakeshop after moving back to Cork from San Francisco, where she successfully ran her own bakery for 13 years. Her sweet treats and truffles can now be found on her website,, and through a number of Neighbourfood markets.

Peigin Crowley, of Ground Wellbeing, based in Ovens, Co. Cork. Picture: Cathal Noonan
Peigin Crowley, of Ground Wellbeing, based in Ovens, Co. Cork. Picture: Cathal Noonan

Peigín Crowley, Ground Wellbeing

Utilising her many years of experience in the spa world, Peigín launched her successful self-care collection, Ground Wellbeing, in 2020. The products can be found in Brown Thomas, among other retailers, and with a workshop now open for visits on Model Farm Road, there’s more exciting things to come.

Author Anna Stack

Anna had her first work published at just 18 years old, when her colouring book Anna’s Dream World hit shelves. Now a student of the National Learning Network, Anna, who attended the ASD Unit at Scartleigh National School, has written and illustrated another children’s book, Squirrely’s Little Sister.

Soprano Niamh Caitriona O’Sullivan

Mezzo-Soprano Niamh Caitriona O’Sullivan is a rising star of the opera world. The 24-year-old’s recent roles have included singing with the great Placido Domingo and she received rave reviews for her performances at Wexford Festival Opera in November. She’ll be on the road again this year, starting in London next month.

Edel Farrell, educator

County Clare native Edel Farrell was appointed as deputy principal of Coláiste Éamann Rís in Ballyphehane last year, making her the first woman to hold the role in the school’s 195 years history.

Kayleigh Cole, driver

Dripsey native Kayleigh is a rising name in the world of motorsport, having received a top prize in the UK last year. Kayls, as she prefers to be known, began karting in 2017 and was presented with an award for the highest-scoring novice in the 2021 F1000 Swallow Hill Homes Championship.

Emma Coffey, founder of FinalBend

Emma Coffey founded her athleisure company FinalBend while still in secondary school. A Quercus scholar at UCC, Emma has since been featured on The Late Late Show and won the National Start Up Award for Ecommerce and Retail 2022.

Dr E Alana James, artist Digital artist

Dr Emily Alana James grew up in the U.S and moved to Cork in her late 1950s. She’ll be launching her first online exhibition in early 2023, with an in-person exhibition planned for Ballymaloe in the summer.

Louise Moran, entrepreneur

In 2021, Louise founded Flourish Emporium, a brand of scented candles, room scents and other home fragrance items. Moran devises bespoke fragrances for hotels and brides to be, and sells specialised gift packages on her website,

Sophie Motley, artistic director

Sophie is starting into her third year as The Everyman Theatre’s Artistic Director and was previously Artistic Director of Pentabus, the UK’s national rural theatre company, and has plenty of plans in store for her first lockdown-free year at the Everyman.

Emma Connolly, occupational therapist

Emma founded Cork’s first sensory inclusive hair salon for children and young adults last year in an effort to help the industry be more inclusive. Flourish & Be opened in Clonakilty in December and encourages children to engage and explore the salon environment.

Amy Boyden and Niamh Murray, founders of ForgetMeNot

UCC graduates Amy Boyden, from Cork, and Niamh Murray, from Co Offaly, created the ForgetMeNot app to help people with dementia use photos, music, and voice recordings to create a personalised digital memory book.

GAA star Orlaith Cahalane

Dual Cork minor Orlaith Cahalane was named Player of the Match in last year’s All-Ireland minor camogie final. She plays camogie for St Finbarr’s and football with Éire Óg.

Singer Laoise Leahy.
Singer Laoise Leahy.

Singer Laoise Leahy

Cork jazz singer Laoise is set to open a year-long residency at Cork Opera House’s newly reopened club venue, The Green Room, on February 17. Leahy, who has performed and recorded with Bon Iver, Damien Rice, and many others, will perform once a month for the rest of 2023 as part of the residency.

Ingrid Seim, Network Cork President

Ingrid will take the reins of Network Cork for 2023. Originally from Norway, she moved to Cork in 2013 and runs her own business, Avenues Consultancy and Coaching. Prior to that, she had a 20-year-long corporate career that saw her working for a number of high profile companies, including IBM and Amazon.

Anne Marie Kingston, Network West Cork President

Anne Marie will be running things down west as the sixth Network West Cork President. She is the owner of White Sage Decluttering and her 2023 theme for the network will be “Back in the Room”.

Orla McAndrew, caterer

Orla McAndrew Food is changing the catering field with its innovative zero-waste wedding menus. Based in Donoughmore, Orla was the winner of the Creative category at the 2022 Cork Business Woman Awards.

Carol Brick, wealth manager

Carol makes finances seem less overwhelming through CWM Wealth Management, an award-winning financial solutions company. A previous Cork Businesswoman of the Year, Carol has big plans in 2023 for HerMoney, CWM’s dedicated financial advisory service for professional women.

Engineer Konstantina Stefanidou

Konstantina has recently taken over as the leader of Johnson & Johnson’s Women Leadership Inclusion group in Ireland. The Kinsale resident is a global senior engineering manager in DePuy Synthes.

Erika O’Shea, AFL player

Cork athlete Erika made headlines in September when she announced she would try her hand at a different type of football. The 19-year-old All Star left the Cork panel for Melbourne and is currently the youngest Irish player in the history of AFL Women’s, Australia’s national Australian rules football league.

Sandra Looney, florist and business owner

Sandra currently runs two businesses in Cork, having launched her wedding and event management and styling business, To Have and To Hold, nine years ago and her flower shop of the same name in 2021. She was also awarded the tender for the Rose of Tralee’s décor in 2022.

Monika Nowakowska, designer and boutique owner

Monika recently opened her boutique, Lady of the Valley, in Schull, where her 30 years of experience in dressmaking, designing and styling will help shoppers find the perfect sustainable outfit.

Chloe Riordain (Princess Aurora), pictured at the launch of Sleeping Beauty, this year's panto at Cork Opera House. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO
Chloe Riordain (Princess Aurora), pictured at the launch of Sleeping Beauty, this year's panto at Cork Opera House. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

Actress Chloe Riordain

Chloe has been wowing audiences at Cork Opera House with her performance in the theatre’s panto, Sleeping Beauty. No stranger to the stage, the 21-year-old has been performing since the age of three and has racked up an impressive number of credits and awards.

Gemma Kingston, founder of The Family Edit

From playgrounds to beaches, Gemma’s website,, lists off all the best free things for families to do in Cork. The database was created during the pandemic and has grown significantly, with over 27,500 Instagram followers to date.

Dr Begüm Genç, researcher

Dr Begüm Genç is a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer in computer science at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at UCC. The artificial intelligence expert (AI) was appointed as the Irish Ambassador for Women in AI in 2022.

Hockey player Caoimhe Perdue

Caoimhe Perdue made her long awaited international debut last year on Ireland’s women’s World Cup hockey team. The former Tipperary camogie player is studying Food and Nutritional Sciences at UCC and was co-captain of the Irish Under 21 team at the Junior World Cup.

Jessica Kennedy, occupational therapist

Jessice is a multi-award winning paediatric occupational therapist and founder of Gabadoo, a platform that pairs parents who have a question about their child’s development with experienced experts.

Sheena Dempsey, illustrator

The Holly Bough cover artist has hinted at “exciting news” coming in 2023 as regards her work as a children’s book writer and illustrator.

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