Women in Sport

Mar 08 2022

The Big Interview Women in Sport Series - Orla O'Reilly

Q: Orla could you first just give us a brief synopsis of your playing career?

“I grew up playing basketball with Glanmire in Cork. When I was 18 I moved to the States to play at Binghamton University with my twin sister, Sinead. I knew I wanted to play pro so after I graduated, I signed with an agent and started my career in Europe. After a year of injuries in 2016 I decided to go play in Australia. It was the best decision of my life. I’ve been in Melbourne for five years and will most likely finish my career here.”

Q: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

“The highlight of my career would have to be winning back-to-back championships with my Australian club, the Sunbury Jets. This was my first championship as a pro and honestly it felt better than all of my individual accolades combined.”

Q: You've played in Ireland, USA, Czech Republic, Spain, Iceland and Australia. That's quite a list! What is it like adapting to different playing environments? Is it difficult?

“Adapting to your new environment is one of the biggest challenges, but it is also the most rewarding. The first few weeks are always difficult, between learning the language, getting to know your new team, and settling in to your new schedule and lifestyle. These experiences definitely take you out of your comfort zone. It gets easier with each season you play.”

Q: Is there a difference in the style of play throughout the different countries you've played?

“Yes, there are differences. For example, I found the Spanish league was very fast-paced, whereas the Australian league was a lot more physical. This is another thing you have to adapt to when you play in a new league.”

Q: You welcomed your son to the world in 2020, and have since returned to playing professionally, was this a difficult process?

“The process was a little challenging at times, both mentally and physically. Similar to returning after an injury, it’s frustrating when your body is not where you want it to be. But, I’m going into my second season now since having Finley and I feel really good. I love bringing him to the court with me and it’s so fun to see him at my games.”

 Orla O'Reilly with son Finley after a pre-season game

Q: You previously pulled on the green jersey for Ireland, but it has been a number of years since you've worn it. Do you miss having the opportunity to represent your country?

“I miss playing for Ireland so much. I would love another opportunity to play in the Arena in front of our Irish fans. It’s definitely a goal of mine to represent Ireland again before my playing career ends.”

Q: One of the standout performances you had with Ireland came in Baku in 2015, when you defeated Czech Republic and made it to the final 8 in the 3x3 European championship. What did this accomplishment mean to you?

“This will always be a special tournament for me. I loved competing against some of the best basketball countries in Europe. We really wanted to represent Ireland well and make everyone proud. When we made the final 8, I remember feeling so overwhelmed with the support we received from back home.”

 Orla O'Reilly in action for Ireland in the Women's 3x3 Basketball quarter-final against Russia at the 2015 European Games in Baku

Q: Being a professional athlete is no doubt quite consuming. Is it ever something that feels like work in the traditional sense?

“No, honestly, I don’t think I will ever consider it to be work. I love training and still get excited for game days. It helps when you are healthy, and surrounded by good people. I have been lucky in my career in that sense.”

Q: What advice would you have for young athletes who aspire to pursue professional careers?

“I like the saying “It’s you vs you”. Don’t spend time comparing yourself to others, focus on your growth and what you can control. Treat people around you with respect. Your character will be the first thing someone will ask about when they are considering you for their team. And finally, keep going. You will have bad days and even bad seasons. You just have to stick with it.”