Former Portora Boat Club rower Ryan Ballantine is continuing to work hard in lockdown with the European Championships in Poland in October the sole focus for the season.

The Europeans are still scheduled to go ahead, the only major championships not to have fallen foul of the coronavirus crisis at this point, and Ryan is hoping that he can earn his selection in the Ireland squad for the trip to Poland later in the year.

Ballantine is currently at home in Fermanagh but the preparations and training have continued.

“I’m still flat out training twice a day and the university have given me equipment like a rowing machine and stuff so I’m able to do some training in the garage and then I have a few zoom calls with Rowing Ireland so it is keeping me occupied,” he said.

The selection process is ongoing for the European Championships and Ballantine has been named in a group competing for places in the Men’s Lightweight.

“Nearly all the competitions have been cancelled but the senior European’s is still scheduled to go ahead and that is the main focus for everyone at the minute at Rowing Ireland and hopefully that will go ahead.

“Look, it is just a case of remaining optimistic and taking it day by day an going with the lockdown measures.

“I have a few erg tests at the end of this month and then depending on Sporting Ireland and the government they will have to put in a trialling process in maybe July but that has to be in line with the lockdown measures and the phases that they are going to roll out.

“That is all down to the government and we don’t know what is going to happen,” he added.

Ryan has previous experience of competing at senior level for Ireland but he knows that earning selection for Poland is going to be difficult.

“I’m now out of U23s and rowing as a senior athlete but I have rowed at seniors twice before as an U23 which in the past few years hasn’t really been done by many U23s so I think the experience I gained this last few years rowing at seniors will stand to me well this year.

“But I know that I’m not guaranteed a spot, far from it, I just have to keep working hard and try and show what I can produce at the next trialling process.

“It is just about one step at a time.

“The other lads are definitely ahead of me in the fact that some of them are Olympic silver medallists and some of them are world champions so that’s the quality you strive to compete with.”

He also stresses that this shows the strength of Irish rowing at the minute.

“The quality in the Irish rowing squad is incredible at the minute and they are looking at several Olympic champions which is just unheard of in Ireland.

“I have learnt a lot from training alongside those people so I’m looking forward to it,” commented Ballantine.

For now though it is about continuing to work hard and while lockdown can be tough, Ryan has been able to keep his routine and he is enjoying spending time at home with his family.

“For me nothing has really changed apart from the fact that maybe I’m not rowing on the water and I can’t see people.

“For me it’s a bit of down time really, I still have to get the training done but I haven’t spent this much time at home in last four or five years so it is quite nice.

“ The benefit is that I get free food at home too and Mum and Dad have been complaining that I’m eating the house out!”

It is a busy time for the Fermanagh man as away from rowing he is also completing a Masters in International Business

“The course has been changed to online so I have a few more assignments and I’m starting my dissertation but it is a change because obviously you can’t go in and use the resources in the university and you don’t have your friends there helping you out, just the whole university aspect is all changed.”

Indeed, when the Masters is complete Ryan acknowledges that he will have a decision to make.

“I’m coming out of university and it is then the decision do you continue to row or do you get a job or do you combine the two.

“At the minute I’m just looking forward to seeing if I can get to the Europeans and then taking every step after that.”

And there is no doubt that he is eager to get back on the water.

“I think even if you look back at the last few summers; you spend five or six weeks in Cork and then eight weeks abroad in the summer time and you look back on that and although you are really, really tired after training two or three times a day and it is tough, you miss it. I suppose you are doing it with your friends and that is something that I would like to get back to, that training with the lads to get fitter,” he said.