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Ciara Cooke striving to use basketball grounding to earn a spot in Northern Ireland netball squad

 

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Ciara Cooke

Ciara Cooke

Ciara Cooke

After heading to America for a year, Northern Ireland's Ciara Cooke is eager to see that experience translate into international recognition on the netball court.

The Ulster University student spent the 2018-19 academic year in Wisconsin at Edgewood College as part of the Study USA programme where she got involved in their athletics programme.

But, ironically, she didn't play netball in the States - she played basketball!

Cooke is one of many dual athletes who have grown up playing both sports, and is equally adept on either court having played basketball at Dominican College in Belfast and both at Ulster University Jordanstown.

And having experienced college basketball, the Belfast girl is keen to see that translate into her netball career, where she is part of the Emerging Warriors squad.

"I really enjoyed it. It was a different viewpoint on basketball, I learned a lot," said Cooke of her time in the US.

"That's what's great about sport, we get to travel and it's a great thing. You get to travel, you get to see more places and learn more about yourself as well."

That experience has seen Cooke gain recognition with the Emerging Warriors, a squad of players who are seen to have the talent to become Northern Ireland internationals in the future.

While 2020 was almost a washout in terms of development due to Covid-19, the squad were able to meet up recently for a brief training camp and Cooke was encouraged by what she saw.

"To see everyone improve quite rapidly is impressive, especially in the gym," she smiled.

"It's a different focus, being able to focus on the fundamental skills and the physical attributes will be great down the stretch. Everyone will have a stronger body, everyone will have the basics and then we can start getting more specialised in our roles.

"It's a time to develop yourself and your individual skills as well as the team."

Now the goal will be taking those skills into Dan Ryan's senior squad, who are due to meet up for the first time this year in March for four games against the Republic of Ireland.

With competition fierce for places in the squad for the Commonwealth Games next year, Cooke believes Birmingham may come too early for her but isn't closing that door just yet.

"That would be my goal, my first senior cap, and it would be great to get together on the court as a group and be motivated towards something," she said.

"I'm probably thinking more 2026 (for the Commonwealths) to be honest, but yeah, being part of that would be a goal for me."

Belfast Telegraph


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