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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Claire Brock interview: When I first saw Trevor, I thought 'who's your man?' He was gorgeous

Just ahead of her due date, UTV news anchor Claire Brock talks about her pregnancy, career and marriage to an ex-Leinster rugby player Trevor Hogan

Claire Brock and Trevor Hogan pictured after their wedding at Rathsallagh House. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent
Claire Brock and Trevor Hogan pictured after their wedding at Rathsallagh House. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent
Clare Brock
Clare Brock
Claire Brock and Trevor Hogan

Trevor Hogan For a woman who is due to give birth to her first child in just one week, Claire Brock is incredibly laid back.

We meet in Fitzpatrick's Hotel, Stephen's Green in Dublin after this photoshoot and Claire, who hasn't eaten since early morning, orders a club sandwich and settles into one of the booths in the hotel's restaurant.

Currently one of the main news anchors on UTV Ireland, Claire is comparable to Miriam O'Callaghan - such is her grasp of current affairs and her confidence in front of the camera.

The 35-year-old presenter from Glenageary in Dublin was the middle child of three, with an architect father and interior designer mother.

While her confidence now is obvious, growing up she says she actually shy. It was attending drama classes and later a local youth theatre in Dún Laoghaire which helped to bring her out of her shell.

"Drama was the best thing ever for me," she says. "It really helped me overcome my shyness and I loved it."

Her pregnancy is another thing she's taking in her stride. "I've been very lucky [with the pregnancy]," she says in her trademark deep voice. "I haven't been overly emotional and I haven't been sick."

She laughs as she recalls presenting the news on a number of occasions in the final weeks of work. "I was getting kicks from the baby while on air. I kept my cool of course, but all the time I was thinking, this is crazy. If only the viewers knew."

Being pregnant and coming to grips with a new job has suited her down to the ground. "I've had so much going on that I've been quite distracted," she says. " I haven't noticed the time flying in. Besides, UTV have been more than supportive through the whole pregnancy."

The full realisation of impending motherhood only really dawned upon her while on a recent shopping trip with her mother.

"I was picking up a few babygros for the baby. I just suddenly thought, I don't know if I'm ready for this! This is just all a little bit much," she admits.

Panic now over, and with six months of maternity leave ahead of her, Claire is looking forward to the birth. "I'm in the chilling out phase," she says - she plans to return to work in February next year, although that may change.

"I will just have to see how I feel once the baby is born."

It's been a whirlwind few months for Claire as she settled into her new position as news anchor on UTV Ireland. "It was stressful in the early days because I didn't know how it would all pan out," she says. "I suppose if I could do it again I wouldn't plan to be pregnant whilst embarking on a new job".

experience

It may be a new job but the presenter already had a lot of her experience under her belt, having worked in newsrooms for 14 years.

After studying journalism in DCU, she worked for TV3 and later in radio - doing stints at East Coast FM, Q102 and Newstalk before returning to TV3.

She's adaptable having put in her time as a researcher, a news reporter, a producer, a news anchor and a TV presenter. She's always had a strong work ethic too.

"Even when I was in college, I used to work during the summer," she says. "I kind of feel I missed out on travelling as a result," she says a little sadly.

"You know, I found a notebook recently from when I was 21. I was working seven days a week at the time. I used to do five days as a freelancer at TV3 and then Saturday and Sunday mornings at East Coast FM - for weeks on end at a time.

"Maybe I had different energy levels." She pauses: "But what was wrong with me that I didn't think to take days off?" she laughs. "But, I suppose I was quite lucky in that I was never wanting for work."

Despite her work ethic, when approached last year to join UTV Ireland, she says she struggled with the decision about whether or not to take the job. "I thought if I didn't take it, I'd always wonder about it."

Leaving a secure job in TV3 and taking a chance on a new TV station, she says, was 'nerve-wracking' but it's a decision that has paid off. "I'm really glad I took the new job," she says, in spite of the fact that the fledgling news station has been failing in the TAM ratings.

"It has increased my confidence. At the end of the day, I wanted an opportunity to do something more."

Claire says she's been challenged in new ways. "I've chaired more debates and discussions and features around news than ever before," she says, her eyes lighting up as she describes a recent debate between John Waters and Mary Lou MacDonald for the Yes campaign.

"It was hard," she admits. "At one point, I had to tell John to stop talking, and then I would turn to Mary Lou and ask what she thought.

"In my mind, I was just trying to imagine what the viewer at home was thinking, I got such a buzz out of it."

marriage

Claire is married to 35-year-old former Leinster rugby player Trevor Hogan - a man who has garnered a few headlines for himself - and not just for playing rugby. Known for his outspoken views, he has been vocal on a number of issues in recent years - including Gaza and, more recently, Greece.

He attended a rally in support of the country in June and making it known on RTE1's Morning Ireland that he would consider running for a left-leaning political group. But having known Trevor since her first day in college, Claire says his public outbursts do not surprise her.

"I can imagine how people might think it strange that he [Trevor] is outspoken about these issues - people that know him only as a Leinster rugby player," she says. "But in my mind, it's not a surprise. He's always been passionate and outspoken - even in college."

Her husband is now a full-time student and in his second year of a H.Dip with plans to become a teacher. In fact, the couple met whilst doing a four-year degree course in journalism in DCU - graduating in 2002.

Claire recalls seeing her husband-to-be for the first time. "I remember seeing him and thinking 'Who is your man?" she says. "He was gorgeous!' But we were at an initiation meeting later that day and he put up his hand and started asking a lot of questions. I thought, 'Oh God, no! I don't know about him actually. Is that really the same guy I thought was gorgeous?'"

It was their third year of college when they finally got together after Trevor made the romantic gesture of sending Claire a Valentine's Day card - written in shorthand. What followed was a 10-year romance with the couple breaking up a couple of times but always getting back together. The longest they ever lasted apart was a year.

"He was in Tipperary playing rugby and I was in Dublin working on my career," she says, adding that once he had retired from rugby she thought their life would be more regular.

"But Trevor had all these ideas," she says. "He'd always felt very strongly about the situation in Palestine and then he got offered the opportunity to go and he went.

"It was an admirable thing to do," she adds. " I don't think there are enough principled people in the world. I really admire him because I would never be like that."

It didn't take from the fact that she was up the walls with worry about him though. "I was working in a newsroom at the time and all these shots were coming in on CNN - grainy footage of these Israeli commandos and activists out at sea," she shakes her head at the memory.

Held in a detention centre for six days, Trevor was eventually released and sent home. "Then I could mad at him," jokes Claire. "I told him, 'Don't ever put me through that again'."

It will be two years this September since they married and Claire admits that she feels more secure as a result. "I'd got to that stage in my life where I just wanted to be married. To be honest, I knew that Trev would love it too."

Marriage, she says, has been good for both of them. They enjoy a good dynamic, often discussing current affairs over the dinner table.

"We often disagree," says Claire. "But I think that's what keeps the relationship fun and interesting."

fatherhood

Trevor she says is looking forward to becoming a father. "He's very excited and the timing is good because he's not back in college until September. He's really good with kids. I've seen him hold my nephew."

She readily admits that she is in a good place in her life right now. "A few things have come together for me - my marriage, my career and soon motherhood.

"What's more, I've reached that age where I am more self-assured," she adds. "I feel whatever insecurities I had when I was younger have gone away."

She pauses: "I'm aware that could go against me in motherhood too, but hopefully it won't. It's all ahead of me now."

Holiday - city break or beach holiday?

There's a time and a place for both. Right now I would kill for a week-long beach holiday. But my sister lives in London and I love visiting her too.

Late-night or a morning person?

A late-night person - for my sins. I find I get a second wind post 8.30pm. When I'm working late nights, it's usually 1am by the time I get to bed. I'm wired and need to unwind first.

Tea or coffee?

Tea at home, coffee when I'm out. Although I got a Nespresso machine for my wedding and now I'm drinking a lot more coffee.

Books - fact or fiction?

Fiction - I'm reading The Green Road by Anne Enright at the moment. I'm enjoying it. I don't read enough. I was a huge reader as a child, but I am always on my phone these days.

Wine or beer?

Wine - without a doubt. I have missed the wine whilst being pregnant, but I am looking forward to it soon.

Keeping fit - outdoors or gym?

A bit of both. I started running a few years ago but I also enjoy spinning. I'm definitely a cardio girl. Despite going out with a rugby player, I was never really sporty but in my 30s I realised I needed to do something and I started running.

A worrier by nature or happy-go-lucky?

I am of course prone to a little bit of anxiety every now and then, but I am not a worrier by nature.

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