Sunday 22 September 2019

Hooban grateful to Ireland team-mate Miler for setting her on the path to the international stage

Emma Hooban has Ali Miller to thank for her start in underage rugby. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Emma Hooban has Ali Miller to thank for her start in underage rugby. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ireland hooker Emma Hooban has a lot to thank Alison Miller for.

After all, it was Miller who started a women's rugby team in Portlaoise, which opened the door for Hooban to pursue a sport that she was always drawn to.

There were other options however, as she also played golf and dabbled in a bit of Aussie rules before committing to rugby when an international call beckoned.

Hooban has now come full circle as last weekend against England, she played on the same Ireland team as Miller – her one time mentor and coach.

"I started when I was around seven or eight at Portlaoise Rugby Club," she recalled.

"They had the boys team. I played with them for two or three years. Then Ali was involved with setting up the first women’s underage team in the club. I got involved that way and have been playing ever since.

"She was involved whenever she had time available because of the commitment with Ireland. But a lot of the senior girls in Portlaoise gave a good dig out with Yvonne Delaney.

"Then my dad and a man called Mark Roberts took over when I was about 15, 16. They coached us then for the rest of our U-18s.

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"It's mad. She kept on saying ‘God, I never thought we’d play in the same team together’ and all that kind of stuff. She’s kind of like my OAP!"

Hooban is in her second year at DCU where she studies mental health nursing – a challenging enough course at the best of times without having to juggle her international commitments.

"It’s been okay in the aspect that camps being at the weekend and with placements it’s either nine to five or three long days.

"The course itself, you might have four to five hours max a day, but it’s fairly easy enough to balance so far. I don’t know what third year is going to be like."

With regular hooker Cliodhna Moloney currently sidelined by injury, Hooban is pushing for a starting place against Scotland on Friday night as Ireland look for a response from their thumping home defeat to England.

"It was a tough loss to swallow, but there’s no point dwelling on the past," he added.

"We’re building for the Scotland game. We’ve done our reviews and we’re ready to go back into training tomorrow evening and gather ourselves back up together.

"The culture is very good. It’s like ‘Delete and next job’, so we’re not dwelling on any of our mistakes. We’re taking our learnings and we’re hopefully able to put them into practice now on Friday night.

"We’re still building and we are a young team, but we’ve been training very hard. Things are starting to click between us. There’s a lot to come of this team and you’ll hopefully see it now over the next couple of games.

"I think there’s a great passion and a great heart amongst the girls. I know the score says a lot on the weekend, but we didn’t lie down at any stage.

"We stayed trying to fight and fight and fight. I think that’s a good attribute that all the girls will bring this weekend. They’re very passionate about the game they play and we’re all fighting for each other."

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