Former Irish squash champ Rooney still haunted by being forced to quit

Former Irish squad champion John Rooney at Galway Lawn Tennis Club.
Former Irish squad champion John Rooney at Galway Lawn Tennis Club.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

There was a time when former professional squash player John Rooney looked destined to rule the courts for even longer than he did. However, over a decade ago, he was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and, just like that, the future he had envisaged was stolen from him.

Even now, Rooney, who returned with his family from the United States to Galway just a fortnight ago to take up the Racquets Manager position at Galway Lawn Tennis Club, finds it all hard to accept. Despite having achieved so much in his career, he struggles to look beyond that time when his professional career came to an unceremonious end.

“It started during the Summer block of training [in 2009], all of which was supervised by the Irish Sports Council. I was in England at the time and I just travelled away to Hong Kong for an event in the middle of that Summer and, within weeks of coming back, I couldn’t even pick up the mobile phone or walk up the stairs.”

Although not much is known about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it is a complicated disorder which cannot, as yet, be explained by any underlying medical condition. However, the symptoms are very real, characterised by extreme fatigue which often doesn’t improve with rest.

“I have seen specialists in America and they have said it could be a combination of the training, the travelling, the pressures on the body. The body just said ‘no’. I continued under the Sports Council (after the diagnosis) and I was getting blood tested every month but it was leaving needle marks on the arm that were still there the following month. The body just wouldn’t repair itself.

“So, they (Sports Council) kept me for a year and after a year they said ‘you are done’. I tried years later to come back but it was off my own bat. It was stubbornness really because it (not being able to play) was quite hard to take. You resent it. I was still young when it happened, in my 20s, and you think you have years left of performing.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.