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Irish defender Lenihan makes Hull City comeback after frustrating 11 months

“I feel ready now and I feel strong. I just felt so happy to be out on the pitch again.”

Brian Lenihan trains under the watchful eye of assistant manager Roy Keane after his call-up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad in 2014.
Brian Lenihan trains under the watchful eye of assistant manager Roy Keane after his call-up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad in 2014.
Image: Steve Langan/Inpho

BRIAN LENIHAN BELIEVES he’s finally ready to kickstart his career after an injury-plagued spell so far at Hull City.

Eleven months after impressing in his long-awaited first-team debut for the club against Bolton Wanderers, Lenihan returned from his latest injury setback by successfully coming through 45 minutes for the Premier League club’s U23 team against Millwall on Monday night.

“I felt like a kid at Christmas to be back out there,” Lenihan told Hull City’s website. “The medical staff here have gone above and beyond for me and I’ve worked so hard to get back from this knee injury which has caused me the most trouble. I feel ready now and I feel strong.”

Lenihan left Cork City in August 2014 and signed a three-year deal with Hull. However, the 22-year-old full-back’s progress at the KC Stadium has been hampered by a series of recurring injuries, which began during a loan stint at Blackpool. He was also forced to undergo knee surgery last summer which disrupted his plans for the 2016-17 season.

The Corkman, whose Hull contract expires this summer, has been capped by the Republic of Ireland at U21 level. He also featured in the senior squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Germany.

With nine games remaining in Hull’s battle against relegation from the Premier League, Lenihan will be hoping to force his way into contention to show manager Marco Silva that he’s worthy of a new contract.

Lenihan said: “I just felt so happy to be out on the pitch again. It does feel a little bit like déjà vu because I think this is the fourth or fifth time here that this has been my first game back after a long injury, but I know that this time I am right and I need to push on now.

“I felt good out there. I wasn’t in top gear, but I thought I did okay. The plan was always to just play 45 minutes. Tuesday [was] a recovery day, although I feel as though I could train as normal with the first team. That is the most positive thing for me, the fact that I feel as though I can train every day whereas before I would just break down.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Blackpool v Bolton Wanderers - Bloomfield Road Source: EMPICS Sport

“I feel strong and fit now. The aim now is to play in every single game that I possibly can to get minutes under my belt and to train hard with the squad every day. Obviously things haven’t gone well for me here so far, but I have learnt a lot and it is all part of a football education.

“It has been a difficult time and I’m lucky to be back. Now there are a lot of people here that I need to repay by getting back out onto the pitch and I feel physically ready to do that.”

Lenihan has been training with Hull’s first team but he linked up with the U23s this week in order to get some game-time. The club’s U23 manager was full of praise for Lenihan, who played his schoolboy football with the Corinthians club on the southside of Cork city.

“Brian’s a great lad, a really good lad,” Jon Beale told the Hull Daily Mail. “When he comes down to train with us he works properly and he’s always great with the younger lads. He helps them out and he’s a model pro. He’s great for them to look up to.

“It’s difficult for me to give a full insight into Brian because he trains mostly with the first team up at Cottingham but you have to feel for the lad. Just as he starts to get going, he picks up little injuries. You find that you have players like that but the staff look after him very well.

“Now it’s just a case of us managing him well. The medical staff here, both with the first team and the academy, are both very, very good. They know what they’re doing. Hopefully we’ll get him fighting fit in the next few weeks.”

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Paul Dollery

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