Orla O’Dwyer named Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman for April
22-year-old the second Irish woman to win Aussie Rules title with the Brisbane Lions
Orla O’Dwyer celebrates the Brisbane Lions victory in 2021 AFLW Grand Final. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL/Getty
It’s not that the judges for these awards ever seek sympathy, they acknowledge that there are more challenging tasks in life than figuring out which of our sportswomen, in a month of excessively high achievements, most deserve a salute. But you’ve a cold heart if you couldn’t even feel for them a small bit after the April deliberations they endured.
There was our silver winning quartet of Emily Hegarty, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh at the European Rowing Championships. There was Katherine O’Connor smashing her Irish heptathlon record, setting personal bests in four of her seven events, to put her within touching distance of the Olympic qualifying standard.
There was Emma Slevin, the first Irish woman to make a European Championships gymnastics final, and there was Aoife Cooke qualifying for the Olympics by running 2:28:36 in the Cheshire Elite Marathon, moving her to fourth on the all-time Irish list.
There was Rhasidat Adeleke who broke an Irish 200 metres record that had stood for 21 years, and then broke her own new mark a week later. There was Mona McSharry who qualified for the Olympics 100m breaststroke by becoming the first Irish swimmer to break 1:07, also bettering her own 200m record for good measure.
And then there was the form of the rugby trio of Cliodhna Moloney, Dorothy Wall and Beibhinn Parsons which earned them a slot in the Six Nations team of the tournament.
And that’s only the half of it.
Any of the above would have been a worthy addition to our list of monthly winners so far this year, but in the end Orla O’Dwyer got the nod after she became just the second Irish woman to win the Aussie Rules AFLW Premiership title when she was part of the Brisbane Lions team that beat Adelaide Crows in April’s Grand Final.
The 22-year-old, playing her second season with Brisbane, had an outstanding individual campaign, made all the more challenging because of so many quarantine requirements along the way, enough to put her second in the voting for the club’s player of the year award behind their star midfielder Ally Anderson.
Even before she made her mark in Australia, O’Dwyer had established herself as one of our most gifted dual players, winning multiple Gaelic football and camogie honours with Tipperary, including two intermediate All Ireland football titles and two underage camogie All Irelands.
One of her Adelaide opponents in the final was her former University of Limerick team-mate Ailish Considine who became the first Irish Grand Final winner in 2019.
O’Dwyer will be back in action for both the Tipperary camogie and football teams this summer, intent on making an already memorable 2021 one she will never forget.
Previous monthly winners (the awards run from December 2020 to November 2021, inclusive - only one monthly award can be won in any year, but the achievements of each sportswoman through the year are taken in to account when it come to choosing the overall winner):
December: Aoife Doyle (Camogie) and Sinead Goldrick (Gaelic football). The pair were both chosen as the player of the match in their respective All Ireland finals, Doyle’s display in the Kilkenny attack helping her county end a run of three defeats in the final in a row, while an outstanding performance against Cork by Goldrick, currently playing for Melbourne FC in the Australian Football League, was a major factor in Dublin completing a four-in-a-row.
January: Nadia Power (Athletics). The 23-year-old Dubliner enjoyed an exceptional start to the year, smashing her 800m indoor personal best and setting two Irish records. While she was disappointed not to reach the 800m final at the European Indoor Championships, her first senior championships, finishing fourth in her semi-final, Power took enough confidence from her form to send her in to the summer in high spirits - a summer, she hopes, that will include a trip to Tokyo.
February: Rachael Blackmore (Horse racing). She picked up our February award after a stellar month, a 10 length victory on Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown the highlight. Since then? She’s done quite well: she was crowned top jockey at Cheltenham with six wins, won the Aintree Grand National, like you do, finished runner-up in the Irish jockeys championship with 92 winners, before winning another Champion Hurdle on board Honeysuckle, this time at Punchestown.
March: Leona Maguire (Golf). The Cavan native secured her first ever LPGA Tour top 10 finish on American soil when she tied for sixth at the Drive On Championship in Florida in March. Come April, she topped that achievement by finishing joint second at the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii, earning her prize money of just over €100,000 and moving her up to 10th on the season’s order of merit.