It’s hard enough committing your life to playing sport, but when you also have a job to fit into your life as well, this can be very taxing.

Surrey Storm’s wing defence Niamh Cooper is one of those persons who must juggle her sporting life along with a working one. Niamh, is also a Doctor in the A and E department at Mater Hospital in Belfast.

I recently caught up with Niamh and started by asking her how difficult it was to balance sport around work. “It’s actually been easier than I thought it was going to be. I’m very lucky that I am in a job with my boss who is very flexible to let me do job sharing with another girl at me level. I’ve only been working a couple of days a week, which has allowed me time to travel to train with the girls and play matches for Storm.” It’s actually worked out much easier that I thought it would be, albeit it can be a bit tiring at times.”

Understandably at this moment in time Niamh has been under a lot of pressure. “It’s defiantly been a stressful few weeks for everyone working in healthcare at the minute, but I think more so with the anxiety around the unknown about what was going to happen, with seeing reports from other countries it can be very daunting, but the Trust I work in- The Belfast Trust- has been very organised and we spent a lot of the past two or three weeks preparing and setting up for the influx of patients to cope with that, and we are very well looked after in terms of the staff. I am very lucky to work in somewhere like that.”

Northern Ireland International Cooper made her Storm debut against Dragons in a narrow win at the start of the season. “It was brilliant, I really enjoyed that game. I think we made hard work of it, for the girls it was stressful she said. “I really enjoyed getting out there and playing with the girls. It felt like a long time coming because we had been training since September time and I hadn’t taken to the court with them since Fast Five, but to play in a proper match, yes, I really enjoyed it”.

Reflecting on the start of the season Niamh said that there were times when games got away from them. “The game against Pulse had periods of the game when they were the more dominant team and then we were, and I think it could off gone either way. It’s a shame really that we proved we could claw back such a big deficit, then to go ahead by five or six goals and let it slip, there is a lot to learn from that and we need to learn how to hold on to a lead.”

As regard the possibility of Netball resuming at some point this year “It’s very difficult, as I know Netball are re assessing everything at the end of April, so it will be a matter of listening out to them and hearing what their thoughts are  on it.” From a professional point of view where as much as sport is such an important part of my life and everybody’s life’s, to put it into perspective a wee bit, it’s very important at this stage that we look after our health and if that means that we don’t get any netball this year then it’s unfortunate and annoying then it is something that we will have to realise what is more important. If lockdown does end and we manage to recover from this virus, if we got something before the end of the season, then that would be great, but it’s a watch and wait at the minute.”

On training, Niamh is missing the girls. “I’m not really a fan of training on my own, as I love being in a team environment. I have been doing plenty of training, Tom Macarnna has sent us all through our programmes and I’ve been working through that on my own and the coaches are checking in with us a couple of times a week.”