An early start looms for the folk of Irish county Tipperary on Sunday as the AFLW Grand Final bounces down at 4:30am local time. There’s just as much, if not more investment there in the game than the sold-out crowd that will descend on Ikon Park.
Whatever the result on Sunday when North Melbourne and Brisbane face off to be crowned 2023 premiers, part of AFLW’s ultimate prize will be heading home to Tipperary.
Brisbane’s Orla O’Dwyer, chasing her second premiership with the Lions, is about to play in her third Grand Final while North Melbourne’s Niamh Martin – in her first season – are both favourite daughters of Tipperary representing the pride of the county on AFLW’s biggest day.
Martin is one of the latest converts to AFLW as the popularity of the sport has seen an explosion of Irish converts come out to Australia across the eight seasons of the competition.
The 23-year-old hailed O’Dwyer as one of her idols and inspirations behind coming out to Australia to give AFLW a chance. The pair played together in an Intermediate All-Ireland final back in 2019, now on Sunday will face off against each other on Grand Final day this Sunday.
“I play with Tipperary at home, and Aishling McCarthy (Geelong) and Orla O’Dwyer,” she told foxfooty.com.au this week.
“I played alongside them. I don’t like playing against her (O’Dwyer), but it’s exciting to be in a position to play against her.
“We’ve seen the career she’s had, and she’s been nothing but encouraging since I came on and to see her pursue her career here has definitely made the decision easier (to come out here).
“We’re two Tipp girls so at least the Cup is going to Tipperary.”
Martin, still sporting a black eye and a swollen lip after a brutal affair in the Preliminary Final against Adelaide, couldn’t quite believe that she is about to participate in Sunday’s grand final so soon after a “hard transition” learning the sport.
“There were like two days where I’m like, is it for me? So to end up in a grand final, It definitely was the right decision,” she said.
“The club has been amazing; it’s been nothing but a positive experience in my time here so far.
“All the girls are so friendly and welcoming. You’d think coming across however many miles that everything would just be so different but instantly I was made to feel welcome and part of it and it made the transition very smooth.”
Martin got the surprise of her life on the Friday night pre-game when parents Ann and Mike flew in and surprised her to watch their first live AFLW game.
After some “typical, tough Irish love” after she was in the wars last Sunday, Ann and Mike will be extending their trip to watch their daughter play in the Grand Final.
“They were supposed to go home on Saturday but when they experienced the atmosphere and the win, everything about it they loved and were like, we cannot miss this so they are extending their flights,” she said.
“It’s usually after the game when I go to my phone and get a text about the match and then they’d be going back to bed because it’s like 4am before you hear anymore from them.