Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Heather Payne.

Ireland star Payne helps Florida State University to National Championship glory

It caps a memorable 2021 for Payne, who was named PFAI International Women’s Player of the Year last week.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND star Heather Payne has capped a memorable year with an NCAA National Championship title, after her Florida State University side emerged triumphant in a dramatic penalty shootout win overnight.

Payne started and impressed throughout; bouncing back from a knock to score her spot kick and help the Seminoles to a 4-3 shootout victory over BYU in Santa Clara, California.

0-0 after 110 minutes of football, Florida State went on to taste sweet redemption, having fallen just short on penalties last year.

They were crowned champions for the third time in the last 10 years — becoming just the second team to achieve the feat within that timespan — and now have the second-most NCAA titles in the history of the sport, behind North Carolina.

Payne played on the wing throughout last night’s clash, as opposed to the central forward role she has impressed in for Vera Pauw’s Ireland recently.

The Ballinasloe native was named PFA Ireland International Women’s Player of the Year on Friday night, having excelled for the Girls In Green through 2021.

With Payne Stateside, Áine O’Gorman was on hand to collect her award.

“I think overall Heather was our standout player this year,” O’Gorman said.

“You see Denise O’Sullivan and Katie McCabe, absolute stars on our team as well. Tough competition but well deserved for Heather, I think she’s gone to the next level this season and does trojan work up top.”

Payne played the full game as Ireland drew with Slovakia two weeks ago, but missed the 11-0 hammering of Georgia as she headed back to the US for college commitments.

In that Slovakia World Cup qualifier, the 21-year-old won her 22nd senior international cap.

Looking at another Irish international in America, Nicole Douglas of Arizona State Sun Devils was named on the All-American third team last week. “No words. Extremely grateful to be part of this program to allow me to achieve these awards,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Diane Caldwell’s departure from North Carolina Courage – long-time home of Denise O’Sullivan – was announced last night.

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