Getting invited to turn on a town’s Christmas Tree lights, that’s what happens when your sporting achievements illuminate a nation.
Aine O’Gorman found herself flicking the light switches in Bray and Enniskerry recently, at the end of a year when the profile of the Ireland women’s football team reached unprecedented levels thanks to their qualification for next year’s World Cup in Australia.
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Their qualification victory over Scotland was one of the standout moments of the year and on Tuesday the success of Vera Pauw’s side was recognised when they were named winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award at The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sports Woman of the Year awards.
O’Gorman is 33 now. She made her debut at 16. An overnight success, well over a decade in the making. Funny how everything can change so quickly.
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“It has been amazing,” she told The Irish Times. “It has been a long time coming and we are obviously getting quite a lot of recognition now since qualifying for the World Cup, but it’s great.
“It’s obviously something we have all worked incredibly hard for throughout our careers. Something we dreamt about as a kids, to get to a World Cup. So, to be able to live that dream is amazing.
“It’s nice as well to be recognised and to give young girls and boys coming through something to aspire to.”
The battle now among the Irish players is to get on the plane for Australia next summer. There is huge competition within the squad for places.
The draw has not exactly been kind to Ireland, with Australia, Canada and Nigeria all in their group. But it is a test O’Gorman feels the players will relish.
“You are going to a World Cup, so there are not going to be any easy games. We played Australia not so long ago and also played Canada, we haven’t really come across Nigeria. They are all from outside of Europe, so it will be a challenge but we love that challenge and we are looking forward to kicking off against Australia in their home.”
O’Gorman was one of the players on hand at The Shelbourne Hotel at The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sports Woman of the Year awards to accept the award on behalf of the group.
“It’s amazing, it’s great to come to events like this, it just reminds you how much talent there is in Ireland. We are all so proud to come from a such a little country where we can excel at sports from running to boxing, horse racing, you name it. So many of our athletes achieved so much this year.”
O’Gorman’s team didn’t do too badly, either.