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Unsung Hero Susan Moran playing for St. Joseph's University. Photo by: St. Joseph's University

Ireland’s star athlete coaching in the US

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Unsung Hero Susan Moran playing for St. Joseph's University. Photo by: St. Joseph's University

For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators, from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.

Susan Moran is much less widely known in Irish America than she should be, and it’s time to rectify that. She is, after all, one of the greatest basketball legends to ever come out of Ireland.

Born in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, to parents Ethna and Martin, Moran is currently the associate head coach of Philadelphia-based St. Joseph’s College women’s basketball team, the Hawks. A graduate of St. Josephs and the most decorated player in the team’s history, she was promoted in 2012 after serving for years as assistant coach.

This, of course, was after she played pro. Moran has played in the WNBA with the New York Liberty, in a professional league in Spain, and in New Zealand with the Canterbury Wildcats, the team she led to the New Zealand Women’s National Basketball League title in 2005. For that achievement she was named league MVP.

The following year, in Australia, playing as a member of the Rockhampton Cyclones she earned MVP honors from the Queensland Australia Basketball League. She has also played for Ireland’s national team.

It all began during Moran’s senior year of secondary school in Ireland, when she caught the attention of college recruiters in the US and calls started pouring in. She was courted by a number of schools, including Fordham, Central Connecticut and Duquense, but ultimately chose St. Joseph’s.

As she recalled in an interview with GBall Magazine during her college years, “Basketball [and college sports] is not a big deal in Ireland, so recruiting was something that I had never been around. I think kids in America are more used to that kind of thing happening. But for me it was such a novelty having coaches from America calling up my house. My parents didn't know what to think at all and they wondered what was going on. [They] definitely thought I was nuts.”

But she wasn’t. As a Hawk, Moran thrived. She went from her high school routine of practicing twice a week for an hour to getting up every morning at 6 am to train. She started all 122 games in her college career and became the only player in St. Joseph’s history to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding for four consecutive seasons.

In her last year at St. Joseph’s, she ranked fourth in the US in scoring, with an average of 23.3 points per game. Equally accomplished off the court, she was twice named an Academic All-American and twice named her league (Atlantic 10) Student-Athlete of the Year.

While she still competes, Moran also answered her calling as a coach. In 2008, St. Joseph’s retired her jersey number (No. 10), making her the second woman in the school’s basketball history to ever receive the honor. The same year, she was inducted into the St. Joseph’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

2009 marked her induction into the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame, and 2010 her recognition from the St. Joseph’s University Athletic Hall of Fame.

St. Joseph’s lauds Moran, a former international student herself, as being instrumental in recruiting other international students for the team. The number of international players has doubled from seven to 14 over the course of nine seasons.

Moran earned her MBA from St. Joseph’s in December 2007. She is an active member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

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