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'Australia Was Always On My Mind. I Was Actually Born In Sydney'

Picture credits: Sportsfile / Shutterstock.com
By PJ Browne Updated
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When Orla O'Dwyer first moved to Australia to play in the AFLW with the Brisbane Lions, she thought the toughest part of the transition from Gaelic football and camogie to Aussie rules would be the learning of new skills. That was not the case.

"The hardest thing was mentally that I was coming from being an established county player to being on the bottom bar and having to work my up the ladder," O'Dwyer told the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Moments podcast.

"I'm asking silly questions that I should have known the answer to. I'm asking what does this drill mean, their lingo and slang. I'm asking, 'What is this rule again?' I'm asking about rotations. I can't kick the ball properly.

See Also: ['Always B or C Team Player' Growing Up, Tipperary's O'Dwyer Now A Star]

"It was very daunting at the start. You're so used to knowing every drill, and knowing what to do. Having to start from the bottom and work your way up was definitely a lot harder than I thought it would be. I just thought the skills would be the issue.

"In reality, it was everything else: The education of the game, the game sense, the new team, the new method of coaching. That was a learning curve and it wasn't until the last year or two that I just realised that."

O'Dwyer has played in the AFLW for the last three years, and four seasons in total. Brisbane won the Grand Final in 2021 and lost to Melbourne in the 2022 decider. Last year, O'Dwyer became the first Irish woman, and the second Irish player after Jim Stynes, to be named to an All-Australian team.


'That quickly changed when this AFLW opportunity came up'

Living in Australia - partially due to being born there - was always on the Tipperary star's mind. Though, going there to play a professional sport was not.

15 September 2019; Tipperary manager Shane Ronayne celebrates with Orla O'Dwyer after the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Intermediate Championship Final match between Meath andTipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"I had a strict plan in place where I wanted to do well in school and become a PE and Irish teacher," she said.

"I wanted to go to UL, play with them. Be a teacher, work during the week and have the summers off, and play camogie and football for as long as I could.


"That quickly changed when this opportunity came up. Australia was always on my mind. I was actually born in Sydney when my parents were over here.


"I always felt like I had a bit of a connection with Australia. I always did school assignments on Australia. I'd try vegemite and think I was Australian in a way!"

O'Dwyer came home around Christmas and trained with the Tipperary camogie team before returning to Australia in February. Studying commitments and a few injury issues expedited her return Down Under.

Though the AFLW is still in its off-season, O'Dwyer and her teammates are in training ahead of the pre-season which is expected to get underway in late May or early June.


While at home in Ireland, O'Dwyer passed on some advice based on her experience in Australia.

"When I was younger, I probably played with less fear and probably over trained a lot, ran myself into the ground. I loved playing matches, and never said no to anything," she said.

"As I got older, I really started to prioritise recovery, nutrition. I'm making sure I'm doing everything that I can control before the game starts and after the game too.


"When I was younger I might not have taken sleep and stuff seriously. Now I try to focus on those one per cent things that will make me perform better on game days.

"That comes down to education, knowledge, and just being older, and more experienced. It wasn't until I came out to Australia that I learned how important that is.

"When I got back home, and when I talk to younger players, I always give the advice that you have to control all the things you can and focus on getting those right."


See Also: Outrageous Goal Helps Limerick Minors To Victory Over Tipp In Munster

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