The Tobermore man will line up as one of the favourites on the McAdoo Kawasaki Racing machines at the Armoy Road Races tomorrow, but McLean was contemplating a much bleaker outlook back in January.
He suffered a broken right humerus after crashing during qualifying for the Superstock 600 class at the final round of the British Superbike Championship last year.
It was a major setback for the 25-year-old, who had been ruled out of action for more than a year after sustaining injuries in a crash at the Tandragee 100 in May 2019.
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McLean developed wrist drop as a result of nerve damage after the incident at Brands Hatch and with no movement in his throttle hand, he was left facing the prospect that his racing career was over.
“My arm has come on a lot better than I thought and I was still wearing a splint on my wrist at the end of January, start of February,” McLean told the News Letter.
“Up until that point it was looking unlikely that I’d be racing because I had a drop wrist, and in fact I was worried that I might never race again with the sort of injury I had.
“I discussed it with the surgeon and he told me that it could heal in a few months, a few years or that it might never come back to how it was, so it was a case of wait and see. They told me to give it up to two years and whatever recovery it would make in those two years would most likely be as good as it would ever get.
“I learned to write with my left hand and I tried to work around it as best I could, and get on with life – that was the attitude I had,” added McLean.
“Then one night around the end of January, I remember sitting on the sofa and I nudged Catherine (McGlinchey, fiancée) and said, ‘look, it’s moving’. I was asking her, ‘can you see that?’ and my wrist was just beginning to move the tiniest little bit.”
McLean doubled down on his efforts to regain movement in his wrist once again and slowly but surely he made excellent progress over the next few months.
“I put a lot of effort into building the strength back up again because it was so weak,” he said.
“I had a lot of muscle waste as well and at the start, even when I tried to hold my wrist in a straight position it felt like I was holding a weight in my hand.
“I spent a lot of time riding my trials bike, which was working my wrist and my hand. I was able to ride a trials bike much, much sooner than I would have been able to ride any other kind of bike because of the slow speed involved.
“The progress is way more than I could ever have imagined back in the winter and I’m just really pleased that I’m able to keep racing.”
McLean, a Supersport and Supertwin winner at the Cookstown 100 last September, says he hasn’t set himself any targets at Armoy as he returns to an Irish road race for the first time in over 10 months.
“I’m taking Armoy as it comes and I’m not setting any targets or anything, we’ll have a spin around, see where we are and then go from there,” he said.
“But I’m looking forward to going road racing again because it’s been a while since the Cookstown 100.”
An impressive line-up at Armoy includes eight-time ‘Race of Legends’ winner Michael Dunlop, Derek Sheils, Michael Sweeney, Davey Todd, Paul Jordan and Guy Martin, who is entered in the Senior Classic race.
Roads close today from 12.30pm for practice, with a Supersport 600 and Lightweight Supersport race planned later this evening.
Tomorrow, roads close at 10am sharp for the main 11-race programme.