Echo Women in Sport award: Claire O'Sullivan found the perfect balance between basketball and family life

Award-winning basketballer reflects on a brilliant Super League season with John Coughlan 
Echo Women in Sport award: Claire O'Sullivan found the perfect balance between basketball and family life

Claire O'Sullivan with possession for The Address UCC Glanmire. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE experience and class of Claire O’Sullivan drove The Address UCC Glanmire to another Women’s Super League this season.

The basketball career of Claire is interesting, to say the least. Born in Galway, she grew in Oranmore and played school basketball with Calasantus College where she won national titles all the way to U19 level.

At club level, Maree where her family the Rockalls are still heavily involved, brought her to the court from the age of 10 and arguably her greatest achievement was helping her club win the U18 National Cup, ironically defeating Glanmire in the decider.

The skills of O’Sullivan came to the attention of American Colleges and after completing her Leaving Cert she was off to Iowa State in 2008 on a four-year scholarship.

"I originally got a four-year scholarship but decided to return home after one and although it was a great experience I decided that I wanted to return to be educated in Ireland." 

In September 2009 Claire started a PE course at UCC and it was to be the beginning of an illustrious career at the top level of Irish basketball.

“At that time Glanmire were the only Women’s Super League team in Cork where we now have three but I wanted to play at the highest level and I must admit it was the right move for me.” 

During her time with the Cork club, Claire has won seven Super League titles, five National Cup at the top tier and one U20 when she first joined Glanmire an amazing record by any stretch of imagination.

After a glorious run with Glanmire, Claire returned to excel again with Maree for a couple of years as she explained her decision to return back west.

In 2018 Maree entered a team in Division 1 and I knew it was an opportunity for me to play at home with some of the girls I grew up playing from a very young age.

“I was still working in Cork so it was a case of travelling up on Friday and returning on Sunday but I knew deep down it wasn’t going to be long term but I am glad I availed of the opportunity.” 


Maree won Division 1 undefeated and despite lying third in the Super League the following season the campaign was cancelled short due to Covid.

Claire married Ciaran O’Sullivan, the present Emporium Cork Basketball player-coach, in 2021 but with so many hurdles coming in Claire’s direction, the will to play one more season at the top level was a major goal for her.

The season of 2020 was the one that Claire hoped to return but it never happened due to Covid and that was another blow.

Following her marriage to Ciaran in 2021 Claire was ready to go again and after the opening five games, she realised she was pregnant, which brought the season to a conclusion.

Getting ready for this season was always going to be tough as Claire and Ciaran were blessed with baby Emma in the summer.

“I hadn’t played a full season since my return to Glanmire and I was determined to try and fulfill my ambition of playing a full season." 

The campaign will long live in the memory and she is bound to share a few stories with her daughter Emma when she comes of age.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect being a new mum and with Emma so young going to games at the start was very challenging.

“I was breastfeeding my daughter and at three or four months she needed me every three hours day and night and that was very challenging.

“Even getting to attend training was hard and when I got to games getting proper warm-ups was difficult as she needed to be fed so I could play the game but in fairness she was brilliant.

“As Emma got older and went on solid foods I got easier for me but looking back I certainly didn’t anticipate how hard it would be." 

The Address UCC Glanmire player Claire O'Sullivan with her daughter Emma after winning the Women's Super League. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The Address UCC Glanmire player Claire O'Sullivan with her daughter Emma after winning the Women's Super League. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Family played a crucial part in Claire getting through the season and she paid tribute to them for their incredible help.

“Of course, my own mother and Ciaran’s mam Grace were unbelievable in my hours of need and many thanks to them both." 

As the season matured it was obvious that Claire’s fitness level and eye for the basket was getting sharper and in February she was named Player of the Month by her peers in the Super League.

Coming down the stretch Glanmire had lost a little of their zest and were put to the sword in both derby games against Singleton’s SuperValu Brunell and Fr Mathew’s.

When the champions' backs were to the wall Claire managed to roll back the years with sterling performances that helped them retain their title.

“It took me time to get up to match speed but I think since the New Year I have felt sharper and that was down to getting more sessions under my belt.” 

So what next for Claire O’Sullivan surely one of the best players produced in this country over the last two decades?

“I honestly do not know as my motivation was at fever pitch this season so I will take time out with my family over the summer and then make a decision."

Let’s salute the achievements and dedication of this class athlete.

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