LIMERICK’S ace-attacker Ian Ryan has struggled with an ankle injury since April 2013.
Last Autumn the decision was finally made that the St Senan’s man would undergo an operation to rectify the long-standing problem.
Around the same time as his operation were the draws for the 2015 Munster championship.
“I have been waiting for championship since last October because I knew the league wasn’t going to be a big target for me. Obviously I wanted us to stay up and was delighted to be involved towards the end but championship is my no1 and I was looking at the draw since last October/November when it was made and you get the buzz then. Munster championship, you can’t beat it - it’s a great feeling and to be fit and everything means a right cut off it,” outlined Ryan.
“For me with injury there is always a doubt in the back of your mind whether you can get back again or right again. There is always a percentage that it doesn’t happen for but thankfully the body is in good shape and I have come through the challenge games and training and feeling good. I can’t wait to get out on the field.”
Ryan’s only start this season was in the final league game against Louth but the last two months have seen him return to top fitness.
“I can do things this year that I couldn’t do last year - last year I should have had the operation and missed last year but it’s a lot easier making decisions when you are looking back on it. The ankle feel stronger - I can move in different directions and patterns and definitely improved,” he explained.
“I always targeted the last two league games. I would have loved to make the third last one and then start the other two but with set-backs with hamstrings and different things.”
Overall, not an enjoyable spring on the sidelines for Ryan.
“I didn’t go to too many matches - when I am injured I find it hard to watch them. I went to the Armagh game and found that tough and said to myself that I wasn’t going to any more because I hate sitting on the sideline because it’s torture when you would love to be out there with the lads and you can’t. Staying away from it was a good thing for me because it built up my hunger,” he said.
“For me it was all about championship this year because I knew I wouldn’t be fully fit for league.”
His return came as a sub against Clare in the penultimate league game.
“We don’t have a great record in Newcastle West but it was one of those days that the lads stood up defensively - it might not have been pretty but when you see the hard work that all the lads put in it was like unbelievable football. A real hard fought victory and they are the best you can get.”
One week later Ryan started in Drogheda.
“I remember after that game there was a great feeling and the tails were up. If we hadn’t beaten Louth the first target of the year wouldn’t have been achieved and it has and now the second target is to beat Clare.”
The long road back to fitness was already paying dividend for Ryan.
“This is my eighth year now and of course its tough. Your training in the dark and get home and it’s dark about 10.30 and your up the following morning and sore. But it’s worth it because you love what you do.”
He continued: “Everyone wants to play Summer football and when the hour changed that’s when I came back and was delighted to be back with a dry ball - it’s easier to come back at that time”.
Given his injury battle, few can be as expectant and excited as Ryan.
“I would never change this for anything in the world - football, sport is the best thing that anyone can do as a hobby. Getting up in the morning and you might be sore but you know you earned it - no pain, no gain,” he said with a laugh.
What of Clare on Saturday?
“It’s 50-50 - over the last five years if we played each other eight times between league and championship we are probably four-all. There is nothing between the teams. We have played them so often that we know them so well and they know us. When you play new teams you are looking at new players and what’s his leg but when you are playing Clare you know each individual and the match-ups. It’s a plus for both teams,” outlined the primary school teacher.