Women In Sport: Irish Basketball International Gráinne Dwyer
Basketball star and Irish international Gráinne Dwyer has been creating headlines for all the right reasons for more than 12 years now.
The 29-year-old began her hugely successful career in sixth class before moving on to play with Thurles College in Tipperary. She was the star of the school’s Senior A cup final in 2002, when she scooped the coveted MVP award after hitting 40 of her side’s points in their 73-43 win over Ursuline College, Sligo.
The bank official now plays basketball with Team Montenotte Hotel, Cork and is still on a high coming off the back of her side’s cup and league win in the 2013/2014 season.
Gráinne also won The Irish Times and Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Month in January this year following on from her selection as the Women’s National Cup MVP.
All-in-all, there are so many successes for this talented player, it’s hard to keep count, but the Tipperary woman remains grounded and has her feet firmly planted on the ground ahead of the current season.
Now, she looks back over a superb career and talks about what it feels like to have qualified for the European Olympics 2015 and being part of the first Irish basketball team to qualify for the Olympics since 1948.
Gráinne Dwyer in action against Louise Galvin, UL Huskies. (Pics: SPORTSFILE)
Gráinne was just 15 when she made her first Irish debut with the Irish cadet team.
“I have been fortunate to play all the way up to senior level,” the skilful forward mused, adding that she has seven cup titles and four league titles at Superleague level. “I’m lucky in that I have a 9-5 job Monday to Friday that doesn’t interfere with my basketball.”
The bank official was also part of Ireland’s massive 3x3 success this year, along with her sister, Niamh.
“The 3x3 was all new to me,” she explained. “This was Ireland's first time participating in this modified version of basketball,” she said, adding that the 3x3 sees only three players per team on the court at one time and the game is played inside the half court.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to wear the Irish jersey again and I got to travel by default. I had an amazing summer playing and got to travel to Latvia and Romania. The 3x3 set-up was an eye-opening experience as we got to compete against professional and semi-professional players from A level countries and qualifying for the European Olympic Games is something that I’m very proud of,” she continued, explaining that Ireland were ranked tenth overall in the tournament.
“When we play in Baku (Azerbaijan) in 2015 we will be the first Irish Basketball team to compete in an Olympic tournament since 1948. The physicality, speed and intensity of the game is much higher than the 5v5 game."
Gráinne pictured during the Ireland v Sweden game.
“Playing 3x3 this summer made me look at the sport I have been playing for so long from a different perspective which only reinforced and increased my passion for the game. Having a senior women's Irish team competing at European level is something that has been missed in basketball in Ireland for the last few years considering the talent we have available,” she continued
Looking ahead to the 2014/15 season, Gráinne reflects that there is a tough road ahead in order for the Cork side to defend their title.
“The season kicked off on the 5th of October and we have one win under our belt,” she smiled. “I always look forward to the start of the season as pre-season seems to go on forever and all you want is a competitive game. It feels good starting the season as defending league champions, and it also puts us in the category of the team everyone wants to beat which is a good complaint!"
Gráinne pictured celebrating with her dad Bill and sister Niamh (Pics: SPORTSFILE)
“I don’t think it will be easy (to defend), it never is, but I feel that we have a good mix of experience and youth and also a few new additions to our squad, which means that there is no reason why we can’t be successful once more.
“Last year was amazing. Winning Player of the Year was a true honour to be honest. To be named as the best player in your country is quite overwhelming; but in my opinion it could have gone to any player on my team last year. We had a great team and everyone played their role, and without them, I would never have achieved as must as I did last year.
“It’s not easy. We have team training twice a week and I like to get a least two other workouts in during the week just to keep me ticking over. I am getting older, so I feel I need to do that extra bit to keep up with the younger players."
Gráinne in action against Suzanne Maguire, DCU Mercy. (Pics: SPORTSFILE)
“I definitely believe though that all the hard work is worth it, especially when you win, it makes it all that much sweeter and worthwhile. I've been lucky to have had lots of success in my basketball career so far, even going back to the days of school’s basketball, we had a great team and coaching staff back then and it opened up lots of opportunities for me on the underage international scene. It can be a tough slog, but for me, basketball is a huge part of my life and always has been. It has helped shaped me into the person I am today.
“The highlight of my career to date? To be honest it was last season with Glanmire. The season was so enjoyable from start to finish. Like any season, there were highs and lows – well, more highs then lows to be honest. But winning the double last year was a special one and I'll never forget it. To top it off by getting MVP in both finals and then winning Player of the Year was really the cherry on top!"
Gráinne with the cup. (Pics: SPORTSFILE)
“I'm very lucky: I get to play the game I love with so many people that I’m close to, my sister plays on the same club team as me and we have had the opportunity to play at international level together too. I have also made some of my closest friends through basketball, so there is a great mix of socialising and playing.
“I’ve never felt like giving up - basketball is too big a part of my life. I took a year out of work and basketball to do a bit of travelling and see the world back in 2009 and I missed playing like crazy. I came home in January 2010 and I went to the national basketball arena to watch Glanmire play DCU in the cup final. We lost and I was so upset for the girls, it was worse sitting in the stand watching them lose than losing on the court with them.
“Basketball is my life. I don’t play any other sport, but being from Tipperary, of course I follow the hurling! I love watching it and I think you have to be so talented to play. It’s one of the best sports in the world."
Gráinne hits a jump shot against UL Huskies in the 2014 Premier League Final. (Pics: SPORTSFILE)
“Also from living in Cork I took an interest in the women's camoige and football this year. It was great to see Cork do the double and I was extra proud of my team mate Amanda O'Regan winning another All-Ireland medal for her county. The football final was another fantastic game and it was also great to see another Super League player Lyndsey Peat playing.
“I have a lot of heroes in the sporting world. I have so much respect for Katie Taylor for example, as I think she's an amazing athlete and has a fantastic work ethic. I also love watching Diana Taurasi play and Tim Duncan.
“Over the last few seasons we have been going head-to-head with UL a lot too. They have a fantastic team and we have had some great games against them - the most memorable being the cup final last year. I have a lot of respect for that UL team!
“Overall though, I just love playing and I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can. It’s been an amazing journey so far. The coverage and support for the 3x3 was really memorable, everyone got behind us from home and through the internet and social media, which just added to the euphoria.
“Thank must be given to Matt Hall for pushing 3x3 and Bernard O’Byrne of Basketball Ireland for supporting his choice. Keep an eye out for upcoming 3x3 tournaments around Ireland in the next year and don’t forget to get behind the team for the Olympics next year!” she finished.