Ireland’s second-ever AFLW champion: Orla O’Dwyer.
Source: AFL Women’s.
THE PICTURE SPOKE a thousand words.
A beaming Orla O’Dwyer celebrating Brisbane Lions’ first-ever Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] Premiership title win after a simply sensational season. Silverware in hand, smiling from ear to ear; all the hard work had paid off.
She was a long way from Tipperary, but right at home on the biggest stage on the other side of the world. In this, her adopted sport — and third at the highest level possible.
The 22-year-old already has two All-Ireland intermediate football medals to her name, and has captained the Premier camogie side, and after her second season Down Under, she’s won the biggest prize possible there.
Not only that, but she’s had a glittering individual campaign. She was one of the best on the ground for Brisbane as they stunned Adelaide Crows 6.2 (38) to 3.2 (20) in this morning’s Grand Final.
O’Dwyer starred on the wing as 22,934 fans watched on at the Adelaide Oval, accounting for 16 disposals and six tackles, while setting up a stunning soccer-style Courtney Hodder goal with her wand of a left boot.
How has she kicked this one?!#AFLWGF pic.twitter.com/BOursproHm
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) April 17, 2021
Her GPS tracker must have been through the roof too, her remarkable athleticism shining through as she covered almost every blade of grass on the field en route to becoming just the second Irish player to win an AFLW Premiership.
The other was on the losing side this morning: Ailish Considine, champion and Grand Final goal-scorer in 2019. After a rollercoaster of a season between a scary concussion and a dog bite, the Clare woman battled back to make the Crows matchday squad — and produce an impressive performance at that, also named among the best on the ground with 11 disposals.
Both old college friends and team-mates from University of Limerick [UL], it was O’Dwyer celebrating at the final whistle, however, as she joined Considine in the history books.
- Munster final Down Under as Clare and Tipperary stars vie for AFLW Premiership crown
She certainly put Tipperary in the AFLW ones too, and continued an incredible week for the county’s top sportswomen. Rachael Blackmore, from the nearby Killenaule, has been riding the crest of a wave of late and won the Grand National last weekend, while Dorothy Wall of Fethard produced a stunning performance in Ireland’s Six Nations win against Wales. She’s in action again against France in Donnybrook this afternoon, with another Tipp woman in Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe in line for her XVs debut off the bench. What a group of phenomenal athletes at the top of their respective games, all positive role models for those following in their footsteps.
O’Dwyer is an absolute all-rounder, it must be said. Given her exploits with the Tipperary and Boherlahan-Dualla footballers, and the county and Cashel camogie teams, she was backed to take the transition to AFLW in her stride from the off. After submitting a statement of interest to the CrossCoders programme, she attracted immediate interest from clubs. Off the back of just video footage and interviews, she was snapped up by Brisbane — and backed to succeed immediately.
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“For a multi-talented athlete like Orla, I don’t think it’s going to be much of a stretch to pick up a third sport,” her agent Jason Hill told The42 in May 2019.
While settling in to her new life Down Under — she was actually born in Sydney — was by no means easy, she made it look so in her debut, scoring a beautiful Gaelic football-style goal with her first touch. Brisbane’s new #9 went on to impress through the season, always learning and growing as she laid solid foundations.
O’Dwyer has always been about hard work and perseverance, giving it 110%. That was evident from early doors, as her mother, Mary, told TG4 this week:
“People are surprised to hear that her sporting career didn’t start right out of the blocks. She was a slow starter.
“She liked running, she played soccer, she played basketball in school. She liked them all and was reasonably good at a lot of sports when she got over her initial slow start. I never thought she’d play [AFLW] I mean to be a PE Teacher was probably the closest she was going to get to a career in sport.”
Again, it was evident as she cut her inter-county commitments short last Autumn, heading for Brisbane and watching her camogie side in the All-Ireland quarter-final from a hotel room.
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She outlined her intentions and lofty AFLW ambitions for season number two from the get-go, getting a full pre-season under her belt while the majority of the rest of the 14-strong Irish contingent had limited preparation time.
Seo liosta 'hellos' Orla O'Dwyer tar éis gur bhuaigh na Brisbane Lions an #AFLW ar maidin!
☑️ Mam & Dad
Full deferred coverage of the
'Grand Final' and more from Orla's interview on AFL Aussie Rules na mBan at 17:10 pic.twitter.com/NtP16dNfg5
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) April 17, 2021
O’Dwyer’s decision, which she assured The42 was a hard, and bittersweet, one, certainly paid off as she was at her brilliant best all season. Named AFLW Ireland’s Player of the Year, she was instrumental for the Lions as they enjoyed a memorable run and made it third time lucky in the decider.
Their Irish import kicked goals week on week, racked up possessions, disposals and tackles and was one of Brisbane’s best, without a doubt.
“This season has been a bit of a fairytale for Orla who has come on leaps and bounds in her own game and now looks very at home in the sport and on the wing for Brisbane,” as Hill told The42 ahead of this morning’s Grand Final.
“The wing is one of the hardest positions to play in the game but she has taken to it like a duck to water for someone so unfamiliar with the sport.”
Far from unfamiliar she looked on the biggest stage, always one to step up on big occasions.
And an absolute fairytale ending it was indeed, for this phenomenal talent and incredible athlete, a long way from Tipperary.