FOR many years the word ‘braveheart’ has been associated with Grainne Dwyer and tonight she will be hoping to help Fr Mathew’s reach their first ever Paudie O’Connor National Cup final.
On Friday night at 8.30pm in Neptune, Singleton’s SuperValu Brunell stand between Mathew’s and their moment of glory as the Irish senior international aims to win her eighth cup medal.
The basketball fraternity was shocked in the summer when Dwyer decided to move across the city to play with newly-promoted Fr Mathew’s, after winning almost every honour in the sport with Glanmire.
“The bottom line really was that I wasn’t enjoying the game anymore and needed a new challenge, but I think the temptation to line up again with my sister Niamh was a huge attraction,” said Dwyer.
Fr Mathew’s have acquitted themselves well against the elite sides in the Super League as Dwyer looked back on the opening months of the season.
“I am really enjoying it but it’s such a change as you have to get used to your new teammates — but look, so far we are 6-4 and I suppose that’s not too bad in your first season,” added Dwyer.
It was noticeable that Fr Mathew’s only lost by 11 points to league leaders Liffey Celtics and were pipped by DCU Mercy by three points — two performances that have given the Cork side a huge boost.
“Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hate losing — but when I look back, I think if we learn the lessons from these games I think there is every chance we can reverse those results at some stage of the season.”
Dwyer could afford a wry smile when asked about her experience of returning to the Mardyke Arena this season for a clash against UCC Glanmire.
“I’m not going to lie, it was very hard and I felt very nervous as I hadn’t been in contact with many of my former teammates or seen them and I basically didn’t know what to expect.”
When Grainne walked on court at the Mardyke Arena she was stunned in what she witnessed.
“God, I thought to myself, every former and present Glanmire player and member had turned up to support them — but look, that was nice to see, as it made for a great atmosphere.”
The end story was that after a good opening quarter, Glanmire dismantled Mathew’s coming down the stretch and it was an eye-opener for Grainne and her new teammates.
“It wasn’t one of our best performances of the campaign, but look, that chapter is closed and now we have to all do it against another Cork side in Brunell who will be determined to make it to the final.”
Having defeated Brunell already in the league, Dwyer believes that will count for nothing in this cup semi-final.
“This is Brunell’s third cup semi-final and the heartbreak of losing at this stage is tough to take and I am sure they will bursting at the seams to win this game. Brunell have two Americans and a Bosman and when you throw in Amy Waters and Danielle O’Leary, you are facing a very decent side.
“Timmy O’Halloran is a good coach and he seems to have improved them from last season and although they are prone to losing games they are expected to win, on the other side of the coin they have been known to shock some top sides.”
Over the years, she has grown to admire the structures of Brunell.
“I think Brunell are a very loyal club and you rarely see their players leaving to join other clubs and you can go to any underage game to senior level and they have supporters who are always there to give them moral support.”
Dwyer, however, has great belief that her team have the ammunition to win this semi-final.
“We have Americans Shannon Brady and Chantelle Alford who are both game-winners and hopefully they will bring their A-game to this semi-final.”
Indeed Brady is a player that could hurt Brunell big time at the post if getting the correct assists, according to Dwyer.
“The club had signed Shannon before I decided to join them and I have been really impressed with her attitude as we have major battles at training and she makes me work my socks off to try and contain her at the post. Chantelle played with me at Glanmire before moving to Killester but her love for Cork has always been special and it was a no-brainer to get her on board.”
The one problem for Fr Mathew’s this season has been the number of turnovers they have accumulated and that has to be corrected in this semi-final, according to Dwyer.
“The big games we have lost have all been down to turnovers and at this level, you are duly punished and we must play far smarter if we are to get over Brunell.
“Having played against Brunell on numerous occasions over the years, you realise that Danielle O’Leary has the skills to light up any game so shutting her down will a priority.”
Dwyer believes this game should be well supported with so much at stake.
“There is nothing better than playing before a full house at the Neptune Stadium and hopefully we can come out on top.”