One of the most crucial members of the North Carolina Courage is sticking with the club for a few more seasons.
The club and Denise O’Sullivan agreed to a multi-year extension Wednesday, keeping the Irish midfielder playing in Cary, North Carolina for the foreseeable future. The club did not disclose specifics of the contract, but it is the first they signed with a player under the NWSL’s new compensation model.
Of the extension, O’Sullivan said on Twitter: “Absolutely delighted to continue my journey with the (Courage). The best club, the best people. Family.”
“She is one of the first names on the team sheet every week,” Courage head coach Paul Riley said in a statement. “She is a massive influencer in the way we play. She allows our creative and impact players to show their talents.”
O’Sullivan, 25, has been with the Courage since claimed off waivers from the Houston Dash in July, 2017. Since then, she has flourished in Riley’s system and has become an important part of the club’s winning ways. With O’Sullivan in the midfield, the Courage have captured three straight Supporter’s Shields and two NWSL Championships.
This past season, O’Sullivan played 2,158 minutes over 25 games and helped keep the Courage afloat when they were without several starters during the mid-summer months for the World Cup. She had 34 interceptions, nine clearances, 81 tackles, an assist and an 84.3 percent success rate on 1,233 passes. O’Sullivan led the team in duels (351) and was second only to left back Jaelene Hinkle in minutes played and total touches (1,628).
In both 2018 and 2019, her Courage teammates voted O’Sullivan as the team’s MVP.
“It means a lot to me,” O’Sullivan said of the honor last month. “It’s nice getting any award, but I think getting an award voted by your teammates is special. I play with world-class players. For them to think of me highly means a lot.”
O’Sullivan has also earned the nickname “Savage Sully” from her teammates for her devastating tackles and willingness to do the dirty work in the midfield. Her defense against Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe and Sam Kerr of the Chicago Red Stars were critical for the Courage in those playoff match-ups.
“She has a genius soccer IQ that makes her a brilliant reader and manipulator of the game,” Riley said. “She is a tremendous footballer and passer of the ball and she breaks up the opponent’s playmaking ability with an intuitive reading of the game.”
O’Sullivan’s role with Ireland’s national team has also grown. She’s been capped 74 times by her country and recently joined the team for 2021 UEFA Euro qualifying. She was also named Women’s Senior International Player of the Year by the Irish federation.
“Denise is one of the best players in the world,” Irish national team manager Vera Pauw said. “There is no player at this moment who is a playmaker and also the motor regaining possession.”
Between now and the next NWSL season, O’Sullivan is playing on-loan with Western Sydney Wanderers FC in Australia’s W-League. Her Courage teammates Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton are also playing with the club this season.