AFTER signing for Ipswich in 2018, Aaron Drinan has had to wait until this season to be handed his full debut, but the Cork native says he is now ready to make his mark.
On social media, Drinan contacted a strength-and-conditioning coach in the off-season, which is why the former Cork City player feels he is better this campaign.
“One of the main aims, coming back this season, was to try and nail down a spot in the first-team squad and I came back flying,” Drinan said.
“I feel it’s been my most productive season since leaving Ireland. The last few seasons have been about me going out on loan, until getting my chance at Ipswich.
“The season has been going well. I’ve got a couple of first-team appearances under my belt now, in League One, and I got my first goal, against Crewe, a few weeks ago, so I want to try and keep clocking up the minutes and get a more consistent run going and get some momentum.
“Of course, being a striker isn’t just about scoring and there is more to it than that, but it’s always nice to get that first goal.
“When I went back to Cork last summer, after speaking to a few lads who had used strength-and-conditioning coaches before, I started working with a strength-and-conditioning coach who works in England.
“He works with a lot of footballers playing in the Premier League and in Scotland. I follow him on social media, and I’ve been following him for a while.
“I saw the players that he was working with and the content he was working off, so I contacted him through that and started working with him.
“Obviously, he lives in England and I was back home, so it was all done online.
“He sent me on programmes of what I should be doing in the gym, but also pitch sessions, as well, so getting that outside help has made a big difference,” Drinan said.
“The sessions that he sent on are very tough and designed specifically for football players. He wrote out the plans in four-week blocks and took me through the sessions, all aimed at building on power, speed, and strength.
“I could call him if I was having any issues, or I would record myself and sent him the video and he would give feedback and I’ve worked with him ever since.”
Having spent most of his career out on loan, Drinan has seen the benefits of getting game time away from Ipswich. However, his performances in pre-season impressed the manager, Paul Lambert, enough to make the Corkman part of the former Aston Villa manager’s plans this season.
“When I went back to Waterford, on loan, and went to Ayr United, it really benefited me,” Drinan said. “I think the loans to Sutton United and GAIS were difficult.
“With Sutton, I was driving to training most days and it’s about two and a half hours, so I was trying to get down there for a 10.30am start, train, and then drive back home and do the same the following day.
“The GAIS was one I probably shouldn’t have taken, but it was a good learning curve, going over there and having a different environment and different way of playing,” Drinan said.
“Because I wasn’t playing at Ipswich and the manager told me I could go on loan, I wasn’t going to be negative about going to GAIS.
“I would never say no to anything. I just needed to know before I joined, in terms of games and what the set-up would be like there."
Waterford was more rewarding.
“With Waterford, obviously, the League of Ireland is growing the past two years, with the standard of players, and Alan Reynolds was unbelievable with me.
“He just gave me the confidence to go and play games and I was at my happiest at Waterford.
“Going to Scotland, joining Ayr, it was similar to League of Ireland. The games are very competitive and it’s a tough league.
“We were pushing for promotion and I think we would have got into the play-offs, if Covid-19 didn’t cause a halt to the league,” Drinan said.
“But going up there, getting games, working towards getting three points and being a main player in the team, I got a lot from those two loans, playing in teams where the managers believed in me, gave me a lot of confidence, and I was scoring goals and helping the team.
“When the manager first came to the club, I went on loan, which was the right thing for me to do at the time because I wasn’t going to be playing at Ipswich, but it’s been different since I returned for pre-season.
“There wasn’t any talk of me leaving on loan again, because the manager was buzzing with how I returned from the off-season. He said I was a different animal and that I would get games at the club,” Drinan said.
“It’s a tough league and anyone can beat anyone, but our aim is to try and get promoted and be back in the Championship next season, but that is easier said than done.”