Claire Rockall is regularly at the centre of cup final week in Ireland but, even without her Glanmire side in the final, she’s at thec centre of the action in Tallaght. The Ireland international told Emmet Ryan about her family ties to the week, coming back to basketball after giving birth, and much more
It’s rather normal to speak with Claire Rockall entering cup final week in Ireland but awfully odd for her to not be a participant. The Glanmire and Ireland star is one of the more familiar faces on the court during the showpiece week of the sport on the island, having enjoyed plenty of success with Maree in her native Co. Galway and Glanmire in her adopted home of Cork.
Despite a tough draw leading to a first round exit for the defending cup champions this season, Rockall is still actively involved off the court this week as an ambassador for the Pinergy Schools Cups.
“I was delighted to get the opportunity to be an ambassador. Schools cup and league basketball is where it all started for me, I had some fantastic days out in Tallaght. Experiencing that with your classmates and friends, with a great atmosphere, it gave me really happy memories,” Rockall told BallinEurope.
A secondary school teacher of physical education and maths in Glanmire Community College, Rockall is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to her daughter Emma in June.
“I coach the boys in my school. I wasn’t coaching the last couple of years because of maternity leave. Hopefully I’ll get back into it when I get back from maternity leave.”
Spending extended periods away from the court isn’t terribly new to Rockall, who missed extensive time early in her senior career with a cruciate ligament injury, but she has noticed that the impact of the time away is rather different with motherhood.
“I’d had a similar big gap when I tore my ACL when I was 21 but, with that, I was still in the gym before the surgery and almost straight after. It’s not really the same type of challenge. My first season back with Glanmire was cancelled because of Covid, then last season I played the first four or five games before I had to stop,” she said.
“Being on maternity leave, I thought I’d be able to go out training and play a game on the weekend. In hindsight it was harder than I thought. I got back playing three months after having her. Physically it was challenging but my fitness got better with each session.”
It wasn’t just the difference in exercise that Rockall hadn’t quite factored in, she had to rethink her entire game preparation when she got back to playing last autumn.
“What I didn’t anticipate all the preparation and planning that is involved when I leave the baby to go training, making sure that she’s going to be ok. It’s a whole different ball game but I’m delighted to be back and it’s special to have her on the sideline,” Rockall said.
“My preparation is different now. Before I’d be zoning in on the game well before it, thinking about who I was guarding. All I’d be thinking about the night before was a game, I’d think a lot about what I was eating. Now all my planning goes into Emma and my mental preparation for the game starts with warm-ups.”
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“We’ve been playing well, we’re consistent, and joint-top. Hopefully we’ll be in position to challenge for silverware in a couple of months. It was tough to be out of the cup so early in the season,”
There will still be plenty of on-court interest for Rockall this week. Her younger brother Eoin will play for Maree in the men’s final against Éanna but he was very nearly joined by Rockall’s husband, Ciaran O’Sullivan, as his Ballincollig team fell to Éanna in the semi-finals.
“They lost narrowly, it was tough although it would also have been tough if they’d gone through. It would have been my baby brother against my husband. It wasn’t to be.”
Rockall is still quite excited for her brother who hopes to help Maree lift the trophy for the first time ever.
“It’s huge and I’m so excited for them. They made a big leap this year. It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to that game. I know how hard Eoin works, how hard the team trains, and I wish them all the best.”
That’s not the only game where Rockall will have a rooting interest. Calasanctius College, Oranmore, her alma mater, is playing in the Under 16A girls final.
“I still have a special place in my heart for Calasanctius even though I’m living in Cork. I’ve just got so many fond memories, it’s so special for the whole school. A lot of the people I played with and against in Super League in my 20s were against me in school in the cup,” Rockall said.
“The whole week is so exciting for those young players and it acts as a pathway to their senior careers. It’s a mad week and you can see what it’s like from Basketball Ireland’s social media. I remember winning U16 and U19, they were fantastic memories, but even when I was in primary school I remember Michelle Fahy won the U19 cup and it was a big inspiration to me when she brought it back to the village.”