Anne O'Brien - The Best of Ireland's Women's Football


Credit: None

Anne O'Brien's name stands tall among the legends of Irish football, particularly in the women's game. Born in Dublin in 1956, O'Brien's illustrious career spanned multiple countries and leagues, cementing her status as one of the best footballers Ireland has ever produced. Her journey through football's evolving landscape, driven by her pioneering spirit, is a testament to her talent, resilience, and the heights that can be reached with determination.

Growing up in Dublin, O’Brien did not formally start playing football until her childhood, and most of her learning was done on the streets with other children. She was able to draw the scout's attention, gaining her membership with the Dublin-based Inchicore club. Her ability was evident, and she quickly rose up through the ranks, showing us skills and an ability to understand tactics at a fundamentally different level than most players did at that age or even at any age.

Still, at 17, O’Brien continued taking big steps, and she moved to France to play for Stade de Reims, one of Europe's strongest women's teams. This was very significant in that this was possibly one of the first of many times that an Irish woman was to play football professionally for a team in another country. As time went on at Reims, she significantly influenced the team's achievements, and the team won many French leagues.

O'Brien's success in France opened doors across Europe, and she eventually moved to Italy, where she would spend the majority of her career. Playing for clubs like Lazio, Trani, and Napoli, she became a household name in Italian women's football. Her time in Italy was marked by numerous accolades, including several league championships and individual awards. O'Brien's technical ability, vision, and leadership on the field earned her respect and admiration from teammates and opponents alike, not to mention the fans who always believed they had the edge on any bookmaker when betting on football matches when Anne was on the pitch.

Despite her success abroad, O'Brien's contributions to Irish football were not forgotten. She was a trailblazer for Irish women in sports, inspiring a generation of young ladies to pursue their dreams in football. Her legacy, which continues to inspire and shape the future of women's football, is particularly significant considering the limited opportunities and support for women's football during her playing days.

In today's world, where women's football has grown exponentially in popularity and recognition, Anne O'Brien's contributions would likely have received even greater acknowledgement and reward. The sport's modern landscape, with its increased media coverage, sponsorship deals, and professional opportunities, would have amplified her influence and success.

Today, Anne would undoubtedly be able to drive the sport forward in terms of sponsorship opportunities from major retail brands to top online casinos, media platforms, and the usual video games, especially in recent years as the sport has grown in popularity. Her marketability and on-field brilliance would make her a prime candidate for endorsement deals and media appearances, further highlighting the potential she possessed.

Notably, investment in women’s football has major implications for the future, as exemplified in O’Brien’s career. As the sport progresses to even more professional levels and international contests, the groundwork provided by the pioneers, including Anne O’Brien, becomes valued. Her story can remind us of just how much potential women’s football possesses and how much this potential needs to be fostered and encouraged for development.

Unfortunately, Anne O’Brien died in 2016, but her talent remains prominent in historical fiction. She still holds the flag of Ireland’s sporting achievement and persistence high. The rags-to-riches story goes from the streets of Dublin to the pinnacle of European football and speaks for itself to those willing to listen.