Injury time has not been kind to Liverpool’s Irish striker, Leanne Kiernan. After suffering a serious injury in the opening match last season, Kiernan faced setback after setback, keeping her out of the game for the entirety of last season.
She made her first start in 15 months on Wednesday in the derby win against Everton, and spoke with the club website about the long road back to that starting position - especially when the club needs her most.
“It felt really nice to put myself into a position to be able to start again. I’ve worked really hard and the physios have had a lot of work with me so I feel like it was nice to be rewarded with a start. The body the next day was struggling a bit but it was just nice to get out there again and we are good to go again,” Kiernan began.
“Sometimes even in the middle of rehab I didn’t think that could happen sometimes. Originally it was only meant to be a four- or five-month injury, and then a year passed and I still wasn’t out on the pitch and you start to question ‘Am I not doing enough?’ and is it going to get better? But I believe in our physio Chris Underwood and he was brilliant with me.
“I think I had seven setbacks, so I would get back on the pitch and train for a few weeks and then go back into the gym, so it was quite tough and mentally draining. It’s just about looking at the positives and I learned a lot from my injury about myself and about football I guess. I’m probably a bit more tactically aware coming back now and I feel like I’m stronger in different areas of the body I have to work on.”
Not only were the physical aspects of healing a challenge, every setback presented a mental challenge as well, being held back from working with the squad and doing the thing Kiernan loves the most - what any player loves the most. Thankfully, the striker took things as they came and tackled the obstacles as best she could, with humility and grace.
“For sure, because there were several months when I was just like, ‘What have I done?’ and it won’t go right for me. But I guess everybody has challenges in life and it’s how you overcome them,” Kiernan continued.
“It kind of makes you enjoy it more. I enjoy being in training every day because I know that it’s not possible for some people, so it has been really sweet being back.”
Kiernan’s start on Wednesday evening was her first in 15 months, and was very nearly capped off with a goal against Everton, but playing the full 90 after spells of coming off the bench was the real achievement for the striker.
“I was disappointed when I went one versus one with Courtney [Brosnan] but when I look back on it now, I know I have to tidy up on a few things like my touch and my finishing, but that will definitely come. I just need to appreciate that and I’ve worked hard to get this far now. That was one of my main goals this year: to tick off a 90 minutes. Now I’ve ticked that box, we go again,” she added.
And going again? With Sunday’s match against Manchester United the last match of the calendar year, what is Kiernan planning for 2024?
“I’m excited for this one and been looking forward to this game all week. It should be a good one and we are very close in terms of points in the WSL so we’ve got to make sure we up our game on Sunday,” Kiernan continued.
“Right now it’s really important for me to stay mentally strong and confident in how I play and trust my body to bring me back to the highest standard that I can be at. It’s really important that I stay injury-free for the next months and really work hard on tweaks in my game that will just get me back to where I was.”