There are few men or women who have dedicated their lives to Irish sport, who command the respect, admiration and authority of Sarah Keane. Before being appointed as the first CEO of Swim Ireland in 2004, Keane qualified as a solicitor and worked with leading Irish law firm Matheson. Now, alongside her primary role leading one of Ireland’s largest sport National Governing Bodies, she is a board member of European Aquatics and World Aquatics, a Commission Member of the Central Bank of Ireland and, in her second term as the first female President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland. Remarkably, Keane never envisaged having a career in sports. Speaking to the Federation of Irish Sport, Keane’s profound modesty remains a feature of who she is.


“I feel very privileged and grateful, I love working in the sports industry and I love being part of something that I feel makes a real difference in people’s lives. We have a great sector and I work with great people.” 


At last year’s Irish Sport Industry Awards, she accepted the award for National Governing Body of the Year on behalf of Swim Ireland, who embraced innovation and opened Ireland’s first ever Pop – Up Pool providing a unique swimming opportunity for 14,000 people who would not otherwise have had access to a pool.


In August 2022, the Irish Independent published an interview with Keane. It highlighted that during Keane’s tenure as Swim Ireland CEO the organisation has gone from just two employees to a staff of 39 with revenue of around €4.5m.”


“I think for a long time sport was run out of peoples kitchens and very dependent on the volunteer effort. Whilst we are still very dependent on the volunteer effort, a lot of our volunteers are really unpaid professionals and sport has had to modernise to become more fit for purpose as society has changed.


“I think therefore it’s important to recognise that governing bodies are companies. We have to operate with good governance and with business sense… Sport is a business as well as something we enjoy”.


In 2017, Keane was elected as the first female President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland. In March, it was announced that Sarah Keane would stand down after the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. She is incredibly optimistic about the prospects for the team that Ireland will send to Paris and the last Olympic Games on European soil for two decades.


“The athletes are really what this is all about and the people who surround them, their family, their coaches, their governing bodies and everybody who supports them. One of the things I love is their communities really get behind them and celebrate them. That means we have so many different people from so many different backgrounds supporting what these athletes do.


“And they strive for excellence. This is an Irish team that will go to compete, not just participate at these Olympic Games. We’ve had substantial government investment and great work by Sport Ireland, the Olympic Federation, our partners and sponsors and everyone behind us to put forward a united, well prepared, best in class Irish team. I think there is going to be a lot for the nation to get behind and a lot of these people have their own stories as well, they are people first and athletes second. I’m super excited.”


When asked whether she could define a moment over the last two decades, where she has experienced the magic of sport, Sarah reflected on her journey.


“I suppose for me, a lot of my magic moments are in a boardroom, or a room. I know if we do this, it’s ultimately going to change the face of something and make that culture change.


“I love all the performances, every single one of them and I love the people involved. I think that they’ve all got their individual stories and that’s one of the best things that has happened over the last number of years, is that our Olympians are more than happy to talk and that is what inspires kids and young people and older people to get involved in sport. I don’t know if I would call it battles, but it’s that work that goes on behind the scenes, by so many people across the country that inspires me.”