Football action was limited during lockdown, but Claire O’Riordan reckons one of the few allowable exercises contributed to her MSV Duisburg side make a winning start on their Bundesliga return.
Nina Lange’s early opener in Saturday’s 2-0 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen set up a first league victory since October, lifting the Irishwoman’s side five points above the relegation zone with six games left.
“We had walked through that corner kick routine the day before the match,” said the Limerick native of the set-piece she had come up from defence for.
“I think all that football tennis practice came out on show for the goal.”
Back at her family home in Newcastle West during lockdown, O’Riordan did her upmost to stay fit, deploying her immediate family to act as team-mates.
“My niece, Ava Balfe, is football-mad, so she was a great help,” she said.
“We had great fun with the mini-games like football tennis and kicking the ball up onto the roof and down into the bucket. I’m also grateful to my local club for letting me use their pitches to train.”
Unlike fellow German-based Irish international Amber Barrett, O’Riordan was permitted to travel home once the severity of coronavirus emerged in March.
“I arrived back into Germany on Thursday from Montenegro on Ireland international duty and booked my flight for the following day,” she said.
“I wasn’t waiting around. It was the right decision and gave me the first opportunity for many years to spend an extended period of time with my family.
“We had got some good results before the break, such as drawing against Bayern Munich, so I was worried the morale might suffer when we returned on May 15.
“However, despite still missing some players, we’ve got straight back into it.
Like the men’s league, all women’s Bundesliga squads had to quarantine together for a week before the first game back.
“We’re getting tested all the time, even yesterday, and there’s been so far no positive results.
“One of the good things to come out of this is that we’ll use the men’s stadium for the remainder of the season. Their pitch is a lot better.”
The centre-back was the only Irish player to enjoy a win over the weekend, as Diane Caldwell’s SC Sand and Amber Barrett’s FC Koln suffered defeat in the first series of matches following the Covid-19 disruption.
The latter had a particularly bad day against leaders Wolfsburg by getting sent off.
Budgetary restrictions have meant O’Riordan is used to battling relegation since she joined MSV Duisburg almost two years ago.
Recruited by manager Thomas Gerstner on the recommendation of then Ireland manager Colin Bell, she’s aware of the disparity in resources across what is considered the best league in Europe.
“MSV Duisburg doesn’t have the luxuries that most other Bundesliga clubs enjoy.
“A lot of players are part-time, combining work and studies with football, and I can understand why avoiding relegation is talked about as the main aim.
“I try not to think like that. I feel that we’ve been unlucky not to get more points this season, given we’ve how many stupid goals were conceded.
“Saturday was a big win for us and now we face Koln on Thursday and SC Sand on Sunday. It’s great to be back playing and even better to do so with a win.”