Beaten up, knocked down, but never phased. Gráinne Dwyer is a competitor who can never have enough of winning. Emmet Ryan watched her go to work as Glanmire sought to reach the 2017 Irish women’s cup final
There are times, well really one type of time, where Gráinne Dwyer doesn’t look like she wants to be a basketball player. When Dwyer shoots, there’s a look of hesitation in her face that belies her fluid shooting motion. The rest of the time, you could mistake her as an all out baller hungry for everything she can earn. With her hair tied up high with a headband as she takes the floor, Dwyer’s Jordan brand logo tattoo on the back of her neck becomes visible. He wore 23, she wears 9, and in this country she’s made that number hers.
The accolades are too many to count. So many doubles and trebles, international silver with Ireland at the FIBA small nations, Irish sportswoman of the year, and a whole lot more. Tonight was just another chance to add to the haul but every win still matters for the secondary school teacher who just happens to be the most effective scorer in Ireland.
When she’s not in that shooting motion, Dwyer is either furiously directing traffic on D or throwing her body everywhere in possession. No plays off, no fear, no matter the scale of the challenge.
The 1,600 capacity Neptune Stadium in Cork was absolutely packed for the city derby. Dwyer’s Glanmire, winners of the last three cup titles, were taking on Brunell. The underdogs hadn’t made a final in 25 years but came out hard.
The underdogs, coming in on the back of massive underage success and with two big Americans to crowd the inside, rolled into a 20-9 lead and forced a timeout from Mark Scannell on the Glanmire bench. Kaylee Kilpatrick, a 6’4” bruiser out of the University of New Hampshire, was stuffing the lane and frustrating Dwyer. It showed on the stat line as Dwyer gave up three turnovers in the opening frame. Holding onto their 11 point lead at the end of the first, Brunell looked well set to test the reigning champions.
If you come for the Queen you better not miss.
Dwyer took her licks, floored defending Kilpatrick she came out with a bloody nose. Madison Ward, out of Merrimack, knocked her down twice. The first time she looked frustrated, the second time she drew the offensive foul. Dwyer wasn’t going to let the physical game stop her doing what she does best. Kilpatrick and Ward might have been able to pound her on the floor but Dwyer laid waste to Brunell on the scoreboard.
Switching to more mid-range efforts, Dwyer led a rally alongside team captain Áine McKenna that quickly ended Brunell’s hopes of an upset. A mid-ranger from Dwyer gave Glanmire their first lead of the game, 27-26, and they never gave it up. By the half it was 34-26 with Dwyer up to 12 points and she had taken 3 steals to make up for her turnovers.
The brutality continued through the third. A long two from number 9 made it a 20 point game. She reached 20 points for the game a short while late with a turnaround jumper. With victory assured, Scannell gave his star some rest down the stretch. Dwyer would finish with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. A regular day at the office but her fire doesn’t allow her to see any game as ordinary.
As she sat next to Chantell Alford, a former Boston University Terrier, in the closing moments, Dwyer was still living and dying with every play. Come the final horn, it was like she had reached her first final.
Part of that drive comes from what came before. Prior to that three in a row, that run of dominance that made Glanmire the force they are, Dwyer and her cohorts were too used to being second best. They never settled but the University of Limerick Huskies were that hurdle they couldn’t overcome until that day finally came in 2014. That day Scannell’s side played 12 seconds or less ball, ran the Huskies into the ground, and won the game in overtime.
There haven’t been anywhere near as many heart stoppers for Glanmire in the years that followed. Dwyer, for the most part alongside her sister Niamh, finally lifted the big one. They had slayed the beast and it stoked a fire to never let them get complacent.
The sisters played alongside each other again when Glanmire dominated Killester in the 2015 decider. Niamh had to watch from the bench a year ago, having gone down earlier in the season with a ligament injury. This campaign is the first time Gráinne’s mounted a cup campaign without her sister on the floor or on the bench, with Niamh transferring to Fr Mathew’s as she looks to develop as a coach.
Come the gun, it made little difference. Embrace after embrace with team mates, friends, and family followed as the players went over to applaud the Glanmire faithful. Every victory matters and now history beckons with Glanmire looking to become the first side to win the cup four times in a row. Dwyer is ready for that trip to Dublin to pick up another at the end of the month.