GAA Football

Working hard in lockdown: Armagh midfielder Aaron Findon on the road to recovery

Aaron Findon of Armagh powers past Donegal's Jason McGee. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

REMEMBER Aaron Findon’s performances when Armagh came from nowhere to the brink of an All-Ireland semi-final in 2014?

He’d come out of leftfield himself but in his debut season in orange the beanpole midfielder from the St Peter’s club in Lurgan was mobile and aggressive and he never took a step back as the Orchardmen went on a spectacular charge.

It took Donegal to stop Armagh in a thrilling quarter-final that went right to the wire at Croke Park.

“I was only a wee pup then,” says Findon with a laugh.

“It all went very quickly, it was my rookie year and everything was new. It was great craic and I would love to get that wee skinny Aaron back and be able to run around the pitch the same way. But I’m still here and there’s still a bit of life left in me.”

More than his fair share of injury problems contributed to his slide down the pecking order since then in an Armagh squad that is now packed full of midfield options.

Last year he got back to fitness but found himself out of favour as Jarlath Og Burns and Rian O’Neill burst on the inter-county scene and deservedly claimed places in Kieran McGeeney’s starting line-up.

“I’ve had issues with my knee for a while and maybe towards the end of 2017 it was getting sore to train through it,” explained the former Irish News Allstar.

“But you try to stay away from the physio table as much as possible and it would have been 2018 when it really became a problem. The club was going well that year, we won the league and the intermediate championship and at the time I knew I was robbing Peter to pay Paul but I went for it.

“I did the rehab last year and got myself into good enough shape but the team was very good. Jarly Og (Burns), Niall Grimley, Rian (O’Neill) and ‘Bug’ (Stephen Sheridan) were all pushing very strong.

“I was going in thinking: ‘If I can be competitive, that’s all I can ask for’. But they were all better than me and that’s why I wasn’t playing. Whenever I came back to training they were very, very fit and once I started getting there (to fitness) they were playing better than me, so I had no complaints.”

This season he was in full training until he tore the patella tendon in his knee in early February. That left him with a choice of going for surgery or taking a PRP (Platelet-rich plasma) injection and he chose the latter.

“The injection gives you two chances: If it works, class, if it doesn’t, then you can fall back to the surgery,” explains who has also played full-back for Armagh.

“If you go for the surgery and you don’t come out feeling the way you should then… That could be it.”

During lockdown, Findon who had been working as a classroom assistant at St Francis Primary School in Lurgan and he will begin a PGCE course at the University of Cumbria later this year, has concentrated on getting himself back in shape and marketing the Revital Recovery Whey protein product that has been designed by him and his colleagues at The Sports Recovery Centre.

He admits that the season being pushed back is actually good news for him.

“It doesn’t suit 99 per cent of the GAA and 99 per cent of Ireland but I’ve got a chance to catch up on everybody when there is no football,” he says.

“There’s other guys in the same boat. Niall Rowland had an injury in his hamstring tendon and I’d say he is in the same position. Now there is a chance to play football later in the year so it’s a bit of extra motivation and at the minute it seems to be going good so I’m making up for lost time.”

Armagh forward Andy Murnin had the same injection last year and spent almost four months on the sidelines before he returned in time to sink Down in the Ulster Championship thriller in Newry. Findon, who might have missed an entire season, should be fully fit by the start of the 2020 Championship (pencilled in for October) if all goes to plan. Now 27 and approaching his peak, he knows he’ll have to find his form quickly when he returns.

“There was more competition in last year’s panel than there was in 2014 or in any panel I’ve ever been involved with for Armagh,” he says.

“I you would have to give Armagh a fighting chance in Ulster this year. I would back them to go to an Ulster final or a bit further. We want to be one of the top eight teams in Ireland there’s no reason why we can’t do it.

“We’ve been knocking on the door and putting in good performances over the last couple of years and I would give our boys the backing every day of the week to go and get to the top table.”

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