Cliodhna Sargent is set to return to action for the first time since January following the birth of her first son, Dylan, in August with a World Cup spot very much the long-term aim.
She is included in the Cork Harlequins’ squad for their double-header weekend, facing Hermes-Monkstown and Belfast Harlequins on Sunday with the gritty defender likely to play in one of the ties.
It is part of a planned schedule with London 2018 central in her thinking. The 209-capped Corkonian last played at World League Round 2 in Malaysia at the turn of the year, competing a week after she found out she was expecting.
With a gold medal and a big step in the World Cup qualification chain complete, Sargent took a step back; almost in tandem with Serena Williams and her Australian Open exploits.
In her absence, Ireland did enough at the World League semi-finals to earn their ticket to London 2018. Throughout her pregnancy, Sargent was working on a training plan with strength and conditioning coach Darren Collins to have her in the best possible shape.
“People have this thing that you have to completely cut back when you are pregnant. You don’t,” she said.
“All you have to do is take into account how fit you were before and reduce your load according to that. I was still running until five or six months and in the gym to seven months.”
Indeed, the Togher woman still went on hill runs with her international team-mates Katie Mullan and Yvonne O’Byrne who joked she had an advantage of “two heartbeats” to power her.
Did she feel that extra power? “Oh hell no!”
Indeed, it was the first time she has had to slow down since making her international debut in 2007.
“You do get to the stage then where you feel a little like a slob when you are so used to being out all the time. To then be restricted and not able to do stuff, it is hard.”
Similarly difficult was being a spectator. Sargent, a long time part of the Green Army’s leadership group, has never been on a sideline this long in her life.
“The games were all really hard to watch; you are tearing your hair out. I was literally sending texts to the Munster girls in the WhatsApp group, telling them to score the next corner; it was the only thing I could do to actually talk to them!
“I couldn’t complain about not being there. It was very much my choice, I am just delighted they could get the results [and qualify].”
With Dylan happily arrived, Sargent returned to full club training in October and met with Irish coach Graham Shaw at Farmer’s Cross last week to discuss what is required.
Getting back into a team that has adapted in her absence — with Lena Tice and Zoe Wilson stepping up admirably in the centre of defence — will be a huge task but not something she will let go lightly.
“A World Cup is always something I wanted to be pushing for it and I still do,” she says. “I know it’s going to be very hard in so many different ways than what I have experienced.
I have always been fit enough and able to maintain that. Now it’s different. I have gone through a huge body change.
The added thing is being away from Dylan — going to tournaments will have its own hardships. He’s at the age where if I go away for two weeks, he will be completely changed.”
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