By Ronan Scott
DOWN defender Ryan McAleenan could be a faster and more dangerous opponent once football returns later this year.
The Warrenpoint man revealed that he, along with his Down teammates, have used the lockdown to try to make themselves into more effective players.
McAleenan said: “Paddy (Tally, Down manager) said before we finished that this was an opportunity to look at the weaknesses.
“I play in the full-back line, and I wanted to increase my speed.
“I spoke to the strength and conditioning coach about that. He gave me things to work on.
“I wouldn’t class myself as slow, but it was something that I wanted to work on that. I like that sort of training, and working on that first step.”
McAleenan has worked with weights on improving his explosive sprints.
He said that he did his training with his brother Donnach, who is keen on training, and the partnership helped the Down footballer to maintain steady progress.
However, he says that he won’t know how successful his training has been until he gets back onto the field.
“I feel that I have put in a good work load.
“It won’t be until I get back on the pitch till I know. It’s hard to know what level you are.
“I am strict, I stick to a routine. I stick with the runs that I have been told to do.
“There is a lack of equipment. There are things that I can’t do.
“Once the gyms open back up it won’t be long till I get my strength back up.
“But the game speed will take three or four weeks to get back up to.
“It has also give you a chance to get over niggles or knocks.”
The 29-year-old said that he knows that his career is finite, and that he’s perhaps closer to the end of his career than the start.
“You have to enjoy it while you can.
“I know people are wary about going back but I am looking forward to it.
“I near miss the social aspect of football rather than the football. I’ve not seen the boys in a while.
“In Down you are spending four or five nights a week with boys. All of a sudden it was gone.
“I’m looking forward to getting that back, seeing everyone and catching up.”
Lockdown has been very odd for players who are so used to a similar structure of games and training every year.
“It’s the first time that I have been able to do whatever I want. Before I was going from county straight into club.”
It hasn’t been easy for him to maintain his training though.
“It’s been difficult in phases. At the start you were going from training with boys, to going to training by yourself. It is different motivation training by yourself.
“At the start it was okay, but in the last three weeks it was hard.
“But now that there is a goal it is going to be easier.”
There have been benefits for McAleenan due to the extended break from football.
“I’ve actually been walking a lot of the Mourne Mountains which is something that I hadn’t been able to do. I have enjoyed that. But I am glad that football is coming back.”