Denise O’Sullivan has a knack for scoring important goals. The Cork-born midfielder, who will lead Ireland’s charge at the World Cup this summer, added another one to her collection in the early hours of this morning. Into stoppage time and with 98 minutes on the clock and her team trailing 1-0 to Orlando Pride in the NWSL Challenge Cup, O’Sullivan unleashed a rocket volley from the edge of the box that flew into the net and sparked wild celebrations among her North Carolina Courage teammates.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game, let alone salvaging a crucial point in the cup match. A woman for the big occasions, the 28-year-old, who recently earned her 100th cap for Ireland in a friendly against the USA, is the captain and taliswoman of Courage, the most successful team in America.
The NWSL Challenge Cup has had a bit of a revamp this year. Instead of a preseason tournament, the Challenge Cup will run as an in-season campaign with games interspersed throughout the NWSL regular season. To accommodate players competing in the World Cup this summer, the league will play only Challenge Cup games from July 10 to Aug. 17. The top four teams at the end of the Cup round-robin stage will advance to single-elimination semifinals on Sept. 6, and the final will be played on Sept. 9.
With more prize money available than ever before, players will be greatly incentivized to compete for the trophy.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) April 20, 2023
O’Sullivan joined Courage in 2017 and has helped them win three consecutive NWSL Shields and two NWSL Championships. She was named MVP of the 2018 and 2019 finals, scoring in both games. She has also had loan spells with Glasgow City, Canberra United and Brighton & Hove Albion.
But her roots are firmly in Cork, where she grew up in Knocknaheeny and started playing football with her brothers on the streets. She joined Wilton United at the age of six and made her senior debut at 14. She moved to Peamount United in 2011 and scored 25 goals in 21 games, earning her first Ireland call-up. She made her international debut against Wales in 2011 and has since become one of Ireland’s most influential players.
She will be hoping to add more accolades to her CV this summer, when she leads Ireland into their first ever Women’s World Cup.