Niamh Rockett defies ‘excruciating pain’ in pursuit of unique feat

As she continues to triumph over adversity, the Waterford camogie player has her sights set on a medal that would earn her a place in history

Waterford's Niamh Rockett scores a point against Cork in her 16th season an intercounty player. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

By now, the grim prognosis that Niamh Rockett would be in a wheelchair at 30 if she kept playing camogie has been proven wrong.

That warning initially came when she was 16, almost half a lifetime ago, due to trouble with her knees, diagnosed as arthritis.

Yet the landmark birthday has passed and here she is, in her 16th season playing intercounty senior hurling for Waterford.

It’s a tale of triumph over adversity, particularly as she could make history as an All-Ireland junior, intermediate and senior medal winner.


But chasing her dream has come at a cost. The various surgeries, the 14 months when she didn’t run at all, all the rehab, it’s a constant battle.

“Getting the recovery in is massive for me,” said Rockett at the launch of the GAA’s Continental Youth Championships, which take place next month in Boston. “Ice baths, plunge pools, the sauna, steam room, just getting the heat into it, stretching it out every single day. That’s after helping me massively. I’ll always find half an hour, 45 minutes, after games, after training.”

And yet there are still nights when the schoolteacher is in “excruciating pain”.

“I wasn’t happy that the physio pulled me out for the last match in Munster because of the pain in my knee, he was like, ‘We need you right for the championship’,” said Rockett. “We didn’t talk for about a week but we’re back friends again.”

It was a sensible move because Rockett has started, and scored in, all three of Waterford’s championship games so far. She’ll probably start again on Saturday against Antrim.

“The physio is wise to my tricks now,” smiled Rockett. “Like, if I’m on the physio bed, he asks how painful it is at night and I’d say ‘grand’, even though I could be in excruciating pain. So now he catches my hand, and when he’s pushing it [the knee], it’s about my reactions now so I can’t just squeeze the bed or say ‘grand’. My face mightn’t give it away but he’s after realising the trick he has.”

Given all she’s been through, and you can throw in the deep hurt of last year’s All-Ireland final loss to Cork, it would be some story if Rockett could complete her personal trilogy.

“I don’t know if any camogie player has done it,” she said of winning the three medals. “I think you’d have to send out a search party in Waterford for me if I got the three because that would be just the pinnacle of my career.”