With Trinity Meteors seeking a first Irish cup crown since 1996, Claire Melia spoke to Emmet Ryan about her journey back to the biggest stage of the season
Few things are certain in sport, just ask the San Diego Chargers, but I’m willing to bet that few things are going to phase Claire Melia in this Sunday’s cup final. It’s not because she’s the reigning MVP of the final, which she won last year with Glanmire, or that her Trinity Meteors side is heavily favoured to win it.
It’s because there’s no plausible way that anything that happens on that court could be more stressful, at least in this scribe’s eyes, than her day job in early childhood care. Every morning, Melia gets up and has to educate dozens of children ranging in age from 2 years and 8 months to 4 years of age. Reader, this is my definition of torture but Melia flat out enjoys it.
“I’m working in a creche in Monasterevin. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it’s 9.30am to 5.30pm but it’s 9.30am to 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m lucky that work give me the short days to help with training,” Melia told BallinEurope.
“There’s 19 kids in the room in the morning and around 14 in the afternoon.”
Yeah, 40 minutes on the floor is nothing compared to that.
“Some people like to go out and be too serious but I’m not a serious person. I just like to go out and play.”
Melia has been around the block since coming back from her brief stint of college ball in the US. She had a brief stop at Portlaoise Panthers, who she played her youth ball with, while studying in Carlow before signing on with Glanmire for the infamous Covid cancelled season. She stayed for the following year, including that cup win last season, before switching to Trinity Meteors for this season where she reunited with Ireland teammate Dayna Finn.
“I left Glanmire once I started working. It was different in college but it was too much going up and down to Cork with work. When I started playing Super League, Meteors were one of the best teams. It’s good to have them back up again. It’s great going in to coach the kids in Meteors,” she said.
“We’ve got a real drive to do well. When I started, my aim was to get to the top four. At the start of the season we were more messy in our play but we’ve found our game now.”
The sheer number of moves between clubs since returning from the US would make adapting difficult for most players but not Melia.
“It was probably harder going back to Portlaoise. Going to Glanmire, I didn’t feel new at all because I’d played with a lot of the girls before on Irish teams. The coaching staff was also welcoming there,” she said.
“With Trinity, obviously I’d played with Dayna and Sarah Kenny. I’d played against Celena [Taborn] out in America so I knew of her. It hasn’t been too bad, I’m lucky with the group of girls around me.”
Melia’s short stay in the US was somewhat unexpected, as she was starring in her freshman season with St Joe’s before making the decision to come back.
“I thought that, if I was going to come home, it would have been down to homesickness. I’m such a homebird but my parents were out every couple of weeks, sisters were out, my auntie was, there was always something to look forward too,” she said.
“I came home because I didn’t like the way the players were treated. I was treated well because I was doing well but it wasn’t fair seeing girls at the age of 18 and 19 being that upset and it affecting their mental health. I don’t think the college was too happy when I did it.”
BallinEurope is ramping up its YouTube game this season. Subscribe to our channel now for player exclusives, analysis videos, and much more.
The one thing that gets under Melia’s skin is losing. She’s got a Roy Keane like attitude towards so-called moral victories.
“Obviously you’ve got to look at the good things about a game but, at the end, the important thing to look at is the score. Too much positivity doesn’t keep you realistic or make you get better. It comes from my family, mammy and daddy at all our games around the country had that competitiveness in them.”
Still, she’s happy with the way her team is playing at the moment particularly with an option like Taborn alongside her.
“The first thing I like doing in basketball is passing so having her to dish into is great. It’s harder for teams to match up against us. It’s enjoyable playing with someone and not being expected to do all the work,” she said.
“Killester have great shooters. It’s hard to know what way to defend them but, on the other end of the floor, it’ll be hard for them to match up with us. I feel like we’ve a lot of options too.”
There’s an element of history at stake on Sunday as Meteors seek a first cup title since 1996, before Melia was born. Naturally, of course, this doesn’t bother her.
“I honestly don’t think about it. It’s just another game for me and I’ll go out and play the best I can. Hopefully it’ll end well for us.”