Martin Penrose still has sights on Tyrone medal with Carrickmore
Former Tyrone attacker Martin Penrose has discovered that DIY and gardening are no substitute for football.
Still going strong at 36, the double All-Ireland winner was ready to throw himself into another season with Carrickmore when Covid-19 came calling.
With every aspect of his life thrown into turmoil, he refuses to give up on the dream of winning a Championship medal with the county’s most successful club.
But training has been reduced to lonely treks along country roads and ball work with his four young sons in the back garden.
Competitive action, with the League suspended and the Championship facing an uncertain predicament, has been factored out of a schedule now lying in ruins.
“When we heard about it all happening over in China, you wouldn’t have thought we would have it coming here,” said Penrose.
“We never thought it was going to affect us, and we just kept training away and preparing for the start of the league.
“Then all of a sudden it seemed to be getting worse and worse and we had to start taking precautions.”
The League was meant to start at the end of March with a home game against newly promoted Galbally.
Management team Ryan Daly and Noel Hurson, who also guided the club’s U21 side to last year’s Championship title, were looking forward to assembling an exciting young team capable of taking the St Colmcille’s back to the glory days, the last of which saw them win the O’Neill Cup for the fifteenth time back in 2005.
The balance between youth and experience is facilitated by Penrose and two other famous Red Hand names from the noughties, fellow 36-year-old Mark Donnelly and Conor Gormley, who’s heading for his 40th birthday but still a key man.
“It’s good to see the youth coming through, and the future looks promising. It would have been a good way to test some of the younger boys coming through against Galbally, for they are in a similar position with a young team.
“They’re hoping that the young talent is going to be a big part of their future as well, and coming back up, they want to make a big impact in Division One, so it would have been a good game to start with.”
Penrose remains hopeful that a League programme of some shape can he configured once the Coronavirus lockdown is eased.
And he’s confident the Championship will go ahead as scheduled, with a focus maintained on a first round clash with near neighbours Killyclogher.
“We were working on getting a good start to the league, then prepare for the Championship. We have to keep that in our sights, for we know Killyclogher are a good championship team.
“But in the meantime, all we can do is concentrate on ourselves, train as much as we can and get ready for it, when it does happen.
“We still keep in contact as a group, even though we’re not training collectively. So we’re just doing bits of training on our own.
“Its’ not as easy as in a group situation, but you try to do a bit every day and try and stay in some sort of shape.
“I have weights in the garage and I have a bit of a garden, and then I’ll go out on the roads for a run, just to clear the head, just to try and do something different every day.”
Work on personal fitness may be a solitary experience, but there’s no shortage of personnel when it comes to keeping the ball skills sharpened.
Sons MJ (8), Jamie (6), Ronan, who turns four this month, and two-year-old Ryan are willing participants in regular sessions of the closest thing to a football match their dad is likely to see for some time.
“That’s not easy, but I have the young boys here, and they’re learning the football skills now as well. I’m kicking the ball back and forward to them, it’s all the football ball work you can get in really.”
Working from home is not an option for a man who earns his living as a lorry driver.
A joiner by trade, Penrose has been transporting heavy machinery, but the firm he works for has ceased operations for the foreseeable future.
“I have been driving the lorry, shifting plant between sites – diggers and dozers, but it all stopped last week, and I’m now at home isolating.
“It gives you a chance to do the wee jobs that you haven’t got done around the house, cutting the lawn, a bit of painting, cutting sticks and other jobs outside.”