The lengthy wait for the Championship season to kick off must seem longer for Ross Taheny than most.

It is approaching a year since the 23-year-old Ballinamallard defender last kicked a ball in the league, but after 11 months of recuperation from a devastating knee injury, Ross is finally ready for action and a return to the Championship.

Four days before Christmas last year, the future was looking bright for Taheny. He had re-established himself in the starting 11 for Ballinamallard, who had won four of their last five league games.

They were fresh off a 4-2 victory over pacesetters, Portadown, and were facing a struggling Queens side, knowing a victory could draw them level with the leaders.

Hope was to quickly to turn to agony for Taheny, however, as a seemingly innocuous challenge left him facing a bleak future.

“There was an initial knee-on-knee contact,” he recalled.

“It felt like a bit of a dead leg, and I didn’t think there was any major damage done, so I tried to play on, but a few minutes later I went to play a pass and it just popped.

“I went to A&E the next morning and had surgery on December 23 and came out of hospital on Christmas Eve. I had ruptured my patella tendon, and fractured my kneecap as well.

“Initially, I had thought I had dislocated my kneecap, but then the paramedics came and they couldn’t relocate the knee, so I was brought to hospital, and they realised it was the patella tendon. The operation was around an hour and a half.

“They originally told me that, for someone my age, it was worse than a cruciate ligament, and that didn’t sound good, but they were very happy with how the operation went.”

Ross was in a leg brace for seven weeks, and once the cast was removed, the physiotherapy started, but throughout the process Ross was never in doubt that he would return to Ferney Park.

“The surgeon did say that it would be very hard to get back to playing at the level I was at, but I always knew I would get back,” he said.

“He said it was a much slower recovery than a cruciate, and everything would have to be spot-on if I was to get back to where I was, because it was more complex and it was open knee surgery rather than keyhole, which in itself is significant, but I have never known anything else other than playing football.”

Ross admitted the worst point of his recovery process was watching matches and not being able to help out his teammates.

“It was tough at the start, particularly watching games,” he revealed.

“We were going well at the time and then we dropped a few silly points and got beaten in the cup quarter final, and it was tough watching those games and not being able to do anything.

“The first lockdown came at a very good time for me because it meant I had nothing else to focus on.

“I’m a teacher, and the schools were closed, so I was doing a little bit of work from home, and then I had all day to concentrate on my recovery.

“My family were a great support to me as well. Once I got back jogging, I was out on the road, and I was doing my stability work in the house, and I was in and out to physio.


“Lockdown was rough for a lot of people, but it suited me fine, and I was able to focus.”

The long road back to the pitch was complete when Ross returned for a few appearances in pre-season prior to the current lockdown, and he reckons he is now in a position where he can once again challenge for a first team starting spot.

“It feels good,” he said. “I was ready to go from the middle of October, and I was on track and I had started to play a few friendlies, and we would have had a few more and I would have fancied myself to be in contention for the first game, but that has been disrupted now.

“I hadn’t played since last Christmas, so I did feel a bit rusty, and it will probably take a few weeks to get back to where I was – but I will get there. I thought I would be very aware of it for the first few weeks and months, but I surprised myself when I played my first few games.

“When the ball was in play and I was involved, then I didn’t think about it for a second. When the game was stopped, I would take a look at it and start to think about it, but when the game restarted it wasn’t in my head at all, thankfully, because I know that is a problem for a lot of people.

“I am happy enough with how things are going.”

When the season does eventually get under way, Ross believes they have the quality in the squad to take them all the way to the top.

“We have lost big players in Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan Cashel and Sean McEvoy, because they were big players for our team over the past couple of years, but they have brought in some excellent players in Matty Buchanan and the three boys from Institute,” he said.


“They have settled in well and it’s like they have always been there. They have integrated very well, and they are very good footballers, so I don’t think we are any weaker.

“Everyone has been fighting for positions and we are in good shape going into it. Everyone in the camp was very annoyed and disappointed with how things ended last year.

“Within our group, we definitely thought we were going to go on and win the league, or at least get up through the play-off.

“That was taken away from us. but everyone in the squad will be going out there on the first day of the season to win the Championship and get promotion.”