O’Donnell handed a boost as he steps up his return

O’Donnell handed a boost as he steps up his return
Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell has confirmed that he is making good progress from the serious knee injury which he sustained in the 2-2 draw with Shamrock Rovers on Good Friday.

Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell has confirmed that he is making good progress from the serious knee injury which he sustained in the 2-2 draw with Shamrock Rovers on Good Friday.

O’Donnell did considerable damage to both the anterior and posterior ligaments in his left knee after a clash with Rovers midfielder Shane Robinson.

The early prognosis wasn’t good for the Galwegian who was told less than 12 hours after the tackle that his career was over. However, subsequent visits to the renowned knee specialist Ray Moran gave O’Donnell hope and he went under the knife in Santry on April 30 where it was revealed that he hadn’t ruptured the anterior ligaments.

The former Shamrock Rovers star paid a visit to Mr Moran last week and the specialist stated that he is happy with the progress of O’Donnell’s recovery. Now, the midfielder is looking forward to getting the green light to step up his rehabilitation at the end of August.

“I went to see Mr Moran last week and I received the best news I could have got,” O’Donnell told The Dundalk Democrat.

“I’m back to see him at the end of August and then I’m hoping to start building up my rehab. He doesn’t want me running before that.

“The big thing will be to see how the knee responds when I start running. If I have no glitches then he said I’ll be good to go, playing wise. The obvious problem will be fitness. I won’t have ran in four and a half months so I’ll be a bit stuffy.”

Dundalk’s last league game is a potential title decider against Cork City on October 24. The chances of O’Donnell being involved? Slim, according to the Lilywhites skipper.

“I’d need a month or so to get up to speed and up to full fitness so I’m not going to rush it. If the knees not right, it’s not right and as much as I’d love to be out there before the end of the season, I’d be foolish to rush back and then do something and end my career.”

A long term injury is a footballer’s worst nightmare. Training, and the banter that comes with it, goes out the window, replaced by long hours in the gym with just your thoughts for company. O’Donnell, though, is doing all he can to keep his spirits up.

“The big ambition and goal is to get back but it’s tough mentally,” he said.

“It’s a slow process but I knew it was going to be like that the second I got the injury. It’s such a weird injury. I’ve never seen anybody with it so I can’t get advice from people whereas with a cruciate you know the timescale.

“It can be very lonely but it could be a hell of a lot worse,” he added. “The day after I got the injury I spoke to the first specialist and he said my career was over. If somebody at that moment in time offered me the alternative of being in the gym on my own for a few months I know which one I definitely would have taken.”

Despite the loss of their captain, Dundalk have flourished. Stephen Kenny’s men sit top of the league, are still involved in both domestic cup competitions and are preparing for a massive European game against Hajduk Split on Thursday.

“I always knew that that would be the case,” said O’Donnell. “We have a very good squad and we have talent all around the pitch. I think people around Ireland are only starting to realise how good of a team this is and we are showing that we weren’t one season wonders last year.”