Signing from Glasgow Women in the summer of 2022, Lucy Ronald quickly established her place at the core of the Motherwell midfield, but a serious injury sustained in the latter stages of the league campaign would suddenly rule the midfielder out of action.
“We were playing Spartans away from home in the league and just before half time my biggest football fear became reality,” Ronald explained.
“Running towards the ball, I took a really unfortunate landing, and I knew instantly it was bad. I was stretchered off and told the knee was just dislocated.
“In the following days, it became apparent that there was a possibility that I sustained more of a serious injury than just the dislocation. It was then decided that I was to go for an MRI scan which confirmed that it was in fact an ACL rupture.”
A physically and mentally demanding challenge for the 21-year-old, as the women of steel prepared to step onto the Fir Park turf against Glasgow Women ahead of an historic Scottish Cup Semi-Final encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park less than a week later.
“I was absolutely heartbroken to miss out on the opportunity, as it’s been my dream since I was a little girl to play at Hampden,” Ronald said.
“It was the toughest month I’d ever experienced as a player and as a person, missing out on both Hampden and Fir Park.
“It really has taken me awhile to accept that it happened and is in the past. However, I’m also an incredibly determined person and will do everything in my power to get that opportunity again.”
Even at 21, the youngster has had a wealth of experience in the women’s game, captaining Glasgow Women at only 18 and has since become an integral part of the Motherwell squad, playing through the majority of her maiden season in claret and amber.
However, the road to recovery is a daunting process for any player, and Ronald acknowledged that the severity of the injury and the expected duration on the sidelines was tough to comprehend.
“I was aware of the time scales attached to ACL injuries. Having witnessed many teammates go through it in the past, I knew how long the process would be.
“I think I was a little bit in denial waiting for the results back and praying that it wasn’t as severe as an ACL, so overcoming the initial shock of knowing what’s in store was really hard.
“I have never really sustained any injury in my career before, let alone one as severe as an ACL injury and the thought of being unable to play the sport I love was obviously the hardest pill for me to swallow.”
With teammates Murron Cunningham and Laura McCartney both recently returning from severe long-term injuries, that collectively amounted to almost three seasons on the sidelines, Ronald expressed the importance of having those with related experiences to aid the recovery process.
“There’s obviously a lot of worry and nerves of the unknown at what exactly the process involves and preparing for the surgery as well, Ronald noted.
“I do think with this kind of injury, you don’t really know what it’s like unless you’ve gone through it yourself, so the reassurance that everything I was feeling was totally normal has been really good for me.
“Having the girls there who have experienced it before was great, as I could fire any question at them, and they were more than happy to help. They’ve been such a good support system to me.”
Despite the sharp conclusion to the campaign, that restricted Ronald from the women of steel’s final eight fixtures, her exceptional displays throughout the season were soon rewarded, as the midfielder was deservedly named the women’s player of the year.
“That was amazing for me personally, to receive the award was really special,” Ronald said.
“It was a special moment for me and my family and the perfect lift just before my surgery, I’m very grateful for the recognition.
“As much as my season ended in the worst way possible, I also had a really positive season and I hope one day I’ll look back at it and be grateful for all that happened.
With Motherwell Women back in action and looking to secure the final top-six place, that narrowly escaped their grasp last season, Ronald is hopeful of making a return to action sooner rather than later, but is cautious not to make an impulsive return.
“[The process] has definitely had its ups and downs so far as expected,” Ronald outlined.
“I knew the journey was never going to be easy and there would be many setbacks along the way. I’m now at a stage where I am building up my strength to start running which is quite a lengthy and frustrating process.
“The days in the gym myself are long and lonely at times, but it’s always motivating when you start to see improvements. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself for my return at this stage, I’m taking every day as it comes and will see what happens, but I would love to feature at some point towards the end of the season.”