CORk native Orla O’Reilly is one of the best women’s basketball players that ever graced the hardwood in Ireland.
A mark of her quality is that she has shone in different countries including in America, Czech Republic, Iceland, Spain and Australia. Her talent has brought her around the world.
O’Reilly is the daughter of Anne and Tony, and sister of well-known Irish international players Niall and Colin. Her twin sister Sinead is also a serious player, and lines out Singleton's SuperValu Brunell.
O’Reilly, who stands at 6ft tall, and is a superb athlete operates in the point guard position. However, she is very versatile and can operate in any position on the floor when her team needs her.
She started out playing with Glanmire alongside her sister Sinead for a number of years. Unsurprisingly the gifted twins helped the club to numerous underage titles.
“I started playing basketball when I was 11-years-old," reflects Orla. “My sister Sinead and I joined Glanmire basketball club together. We played there for eight years and I loved my time playing with Glanmire as we made so many good memories and friends during those years.”
When both girls were 18, they were offered full sports scholarships at Binghamton University in Vestal New York. They spent four years playing, and studying for the college where Orla did a degree in Sociology while Sinead chose English.
“After secondary school with Ursulines in Blackrock, we went to New York to play basketball for four years Binghamton University.”
After college Orla dipped her toes in professional sport with Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic where she averaged 19.2 points and nine rebounds a game. Her season ended early due to a meniscus injury to her knee unfortuately.
She then went on to play in Spain with spells at CB Bembibre and Embutidos Pajariel Bembibre.
In 2017, O’Reilly then signed for Australian club Sunbury Jets, securing back-to-back championships. The following year she then continued her journey with KR Reykjavik in Iceland where she again averaged an impressive 19-points and 10 rebounds a game.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to play basketball professionally. I always dreamt of travelling the world and basketball has given me the opportunity to do it.
"My first professional gig was with Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. After the Czech Republic, I spent three seasons with CB Bembibre in Spain, three in Australia with the Sunbury Jets, and one season in Iceland with KR.
“My three years in Australia with the Sunbury Jets have definitely been the best years of my career."
Three All-Star 5 trophies and a Finals MVP reflect that.
“Winning back to back championships with the Jets was probably my biggest basketball achievement. Another moment that stands out for me was representing Ireland in the European Olympic Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. We lost in the quarter-finals to gold medal winners, Russia.”
O'Reilly was a very shy girl in her younger days, however, when she was on the basketball court she transformed into a very dominant player who could take over games at will. Even from a young age, she showed that she always had the potential to be a very high-level player like her two brothers Niall and Colin.
She also had the support of her parents Anne and Tony who attended all her games all over the country.
“Growing up my brothers, and my parents were my inspiration for basketball. They introduced me to the game. I spent years playing in the back garden with them before I joined Glanmire.
“My coaches in Glanmire, Ursulines Convent, and the Irish national teams as they were always on hand to help me.”
“The best teammates and opponents I’ve had were probably during my years in Spain. During those seasons I learned so much about what it took to be a pro from watching my teammates every day.”
O’Reilly first put on the green singlet in 2004 with the Irish U15 team. She then went on to the U17s in 2006 and also made her senior debut that year.
On the return of the Irish basketball program she went on to represent her country again at the European Games 3x3 competition in Baku in Azerbaijan were they eventually lost out to Russia in the quarter-finals.
“I played with my first Irish team when I was 14-years-old. Putting on an Irish jersey has always been a dream come true for me, and I hope that I can join the team in 2021 for the Small Countries Tournament in Cyprus.”
She took time out from the game last year when she discovered she was pregnant, and along with her partner, Peter welcomed first child Finley into the world.
“Australia has become a second home to me. I met my partner, Peter, during my first season here.
"Last year we adopted an Australian Shepherd puppy named Carter."
It was named, fittingly after recently retired NBA legend Vince Carter.
This past May we welcomed our baby boy, Finley.
“My plan is to play next season here in Australia, and then after that I would definitely consider playing another season in Europe. It would be so much fun to experience another country with Finley and Peter, and it also be a little closer to my family in Ireland.”