At only 25, Niamh Rockett is the youngest person to captain the Waterford Camogie team. However, at 16, she was told by numerous doctors that she would never play again.
A coach noticed Niamh limping at a training session and she was sent for a routine MRI scan. That is when everything changed. Niamh found out she had a rare knee condition.
“Three different doctors told me that I would never play again. They wanted to break my knees and realign them, one doctor told me that if I kept playing sport, I would be in a wheelchair by the time I am 30. I was only 16 being told this, so naturally, I was so upset. Back then, sport was my whole life. I wasn’t only playing Camogie, but football, soccer and hockey.”
“To be told you can’t play again was really difficult, my whole identity was Camogie then. Now, I have other outlays, but it is still a huge part of life, I have the option to retire if I want to. If I was forced to retire so young, it would have been so much worse.”
It must have been a lot to take for someone at only 16. You have to wonder, after hearing such news, how could someone have the determination to keep going against medical advice? Niamh credits her parents for never giving up on her and going above and beyond to make sure she had all the care she needed.
“My mother used to bring me in for acupuncture, and I have such a phobia of needles. My father did everything he could, he would have gone to every doctor in the country if he had to. I would have done anything to help my body.”
“I would go home and I would have to sleep on the sofa in the living room for six hours with my leg propped up. I wouldn’t be able to sleep in my room and would to always have to have it iced. I have scars all over my knees now – fake tan won’t cover them!”
Niamh herself admits that she is stubborn – a trait she has inherited from her father, former Waterford hurler Eddie Rockett. So she just couldn’t take no for an answer, and she kept going. The hard work and determination paid off, when Niamh won a Junior and an Intermediate All-Ireland title with Waterford in 2011 and 2015, ultimately gaining Waterford Camogie their senior status.
“When I won the All-Ireland, it dawned on me that it was still possible, no matter who told me I wasn’t going to be able to play. I kept going despite what they said. I did countless hours of physio and gym work, I trained six days a week throughout winter. If I wasn’t motivated to play or hadn’t the drive to succeed, I wouldn’t put in all the effort. I am a bit stubborn, no one will prove me wrong.”
“I have phenomenal dedication, once I put my mind to something, I really go for it. I still have arthritis in my knee, so I take supplements every day and I’m on certain vitamins and have to eat certain foods.”
Coping and overcoming injury takes nerves of steel, something that Niamh definitely possesses. And it didn’t go unnoticed, as she was appointed captain of the Waterford team in 2019.
“Last year, I had a great year, my management had great trust in me that I wasn’t going to work myself into the ground. I captained the Senior Camogie team this year and when I was told, I felt a bit of pressure straight away. I completed a leadership course with the GPA and it taught me that you don’t have to be the loudest to be a leader.”
Our manager said to me, “ I just want you to keep doing what you’re doing, be a voice for the girls that you are with.” Even if my game isn’t going well, my work rate will always be there and you can always work for the girl next to you. My game might not be the best but I will always go the extra mile for the teammate who is next to me.”