The 18-year-old twice equalised for Australia, but Ireland scored the matchwinner early in the second half.
Before a ball had been kicked, there was confusion.
The line-up for the Matildas’ clash against the USA announced the front three of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon for a third straight game.
After their exploits in the previous matches and with 281 caps between them, it made sense.
Except when the camera panned across the Australian players during the national anthem, there was no Foord. Instead, between Emily van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter was 18-year-old Mary Fowler.
Fowler ran out the full 90 against the USA and was on the end of the Matildas’ best chance in a scoreless draw. Her link up play with Simon, in particular, was excellent. She rotated through the front three as all of Australia’s forwards have at this tournament.
She did not look out of place at all.
“As a kid, it’s the one dream I had in sports so it feels amazing,” Fowler shared on the Matildas website after the squad announcement.
“It was just the thing that would top off my sporting career, to say that I’m an Olympian, I’ve been there.”
Not only has she been there but she’s contributed. Depending on the severity of the niggle that saw Foord withdrawn, there could be more to come.
Fowler has been a constant in 2021 for the Matildas, featuring in each of their eight games this year. But it feels like it took forever to get to this point.
Fowler emerged as a prodigiously talented 15-year-old. She made her debut against Brazil in 2018, replacing Sam Kerr in injury time of a Tournament of Nations game. She featured in friendlies later that year against England and France.
“She’s probably got the most amount of weapons I’ve seen from a young player her age in women’s football,” former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic told AAP back in 2018.
Australian fans liked what they saw. Excitement grew when then-16-year-old Fowler was named to the squad to go to France for the 2019 World Cup.
That should have been the time for Fowler to impress on the world stage. But she never took to the park.
It was frustrating on two levels. Firstly, with talent and fearlessness, Fowler could have helped the Matildas during the tournament. Instead she was on the bench.
Secondly, Fowler’s future in a green and gold shirt wasn’t certain. Despite being a Young Matilda with over 15 goals to her name and minutes in ‘A’ internationals for the senior team, Australia wasn’t the only team available to her.
Fowler was eligible for Ireland through her father. Two of her siblings had represented the country at youth level. And with no minutes in a major tournament, she wasn’t country-tied to Australia.
Excitement turned to frustration in some quarters. ‘Why didn’t we cap her?’ was a catch cry for many months after the World Cup. There was fear that Australia would lose this supreme talent. Previous fractures with the governing body over Mary’s father blocking her call-up to a camp had the potential to wreak havoc.
But a season with Adelaide United, a mended relationship with the governing body, and a move to Montpellier seemed to fix things. All that was left was that country-tying cap.
It came in Tokyo, in the 75th minute against New Zealand.
Now Australian fans can enjoy Fowler’s football knowing a long career with the Matildas has only begun.