Canoeing Ireland CEO is a truly accomplished and respected woman in Irish Sport. Following a successful period working in operations with Athletics Ireland, she was appointed as chief executive of Canoeing Ireland in 2018. Alongside her primary role, leading the Olympic sport in Ireland, she serves on the board of The Olympic Federation of Ireland, Meath Local Sports Partnership and was recently elected to the board of the Federation of Irish Sport. After Canoeing Ireland was announced as the winner of the National Governing Body of the Year 2024, she spoke about its meaning to the organisation.


“I could not be more delighted, I really couldn’t. It was so unexpected. Part of this was managing expectations, since we were shortlisted because we have been shortlisted before and we are up against massive governing bodies who are doing great work. It’s a matter of amplifying the work that we are doing, so you put yourself on a platform where you’re considered as the National Governing Body of the Year. Thankfully this year, it happened, and it’s a really prestigious award to have, so we’re delighted.”


Rob Hartnett’s, Sport for Business founder and chair of the judging panel’s message to next year’s nominees was to scream about everything they have achieved. Aston outlined why Canoeing Ireland was deserving of this recognition.


“I think it’s the breath of what we do. Canoeing is a huge sport and it’s getting bigger in Ireland. We are beginning to capitalize on the benefit of being outdoors, and that’s important at every level from the teens who are out there struggling with mental health, not just physical health so we’re really getting into that space.


“Plus the fact we are achieving great things at a high performance level as well as building pathways into high performance. I think we deserve the award because of what we have created with great energy and good humor over the last number of years, and a bit of passion as well. That said, any of the shortlisted nominees could have won the award, they are all great organisations so we are really honored to be the recipient this year.”


Canoeing Ireland will send a team to Paris for the 2024 Olympic Games, so it very much matters to Aston and her team.


“I cannot wait. At the 2020 games we had one participation and we were avidly watching the screens and waiting for him to appear. To have three is a massive step up. And we are proud to have a female representing Ireland, because we are really trying to encourage female participation. It’s really important. It’s the balance between male and female within the sport. To have three, it’s a massive shift upwards, but it also creates the possibility that these athletes will be seen and that it will become an ambition for the next group coming through. 


“Because if you don’t see Irish canoeists out there at the games, you might think that that is something for somebody else, or it’s for different countries. Once our athletes are seen  it’s a massive boost for us as a sport, and best of luck to all three of them, fingers crossed!”