For Dundalk fans, the news that Keith Ward is now fully recovered from his horrific cruciate ligament injury will be more than welcome and long overdue.
The popular midfielder will be welcomed back with all the fervour of a new signing - such has been the length of his time on the sidelines.
Almost 10 months since he crumpled on the Oriel Park ground against St Pat’s last June, he is now finally ready after a long period of lonely rehabilitation, to return to the fold: and he can’t wait to get going.
“It was a frustrating time for me personally. Any footballer will tell you it is not nice. You come in, have a laugh with the lads at training and then you have to go off to the gym yourself. I don’t like that.
“I worked very hard in the off season with Paul Cheshire at the PFAI camp and now I’m recovered.
“Obviously the team have been going from strength to strength since I got injured and have started this season very well. It is great for the team but means its looking harder for me to get back in,” he laughed with his usual bubbly humour.
“I have to work hard, I’m back in full training, playing games and hopefully I can push on now and get back into the team.”
He admitted watching his team perform so brilliantly while he sat on the sidelines was pleasing but also somewhat bittersweet for him.
‘Wardy’ continued: “Watching the team do well, you think that it is great but at the same time you are thinking ‘I want to be out there playing with those lads’ and I really can’t wait to get back out there and playing with them.”
The feeling is no doubt mutual. Attacking players in the side will thrive further on the kind of service that a player with the sublime vision and execution of the former Bohemians man can provide.
“I consider myself a creative player and I do feel that I can make things happen,” he said of what he can bring to the team on his return.
“My strengths are passing, finding through balls, set pieces and that kind of thing and I do feel that I can offer something different from other lads when I am out there.”
He added: “I believe in my ability, I know I can get back in that team. At the moment I do feel good, not 100% maybe, but sharp and ready to get going when I am called upon.”
And that call could come from Stephen Kenny this Friday night at the UCD Bowl against another of his former clubs.
Although he was never a student at the college, having signed from schoolboy football on a recommendation from Aston Villa’s Enda Stevens, he has a lot of time for The Students and his time there under Pete Mahon was a happy one.
“I don’t know if I’ll play, if I do well then maybe I could get a place on the bench but that’s up to the gaffer. I will just keep my head down and work hard and if I keep down then I can hopefully get back in.
“It is a great club, a great place to start your career and you see now the talent around the league that came from there. For me personally, it was a brilliant place to learn.”
Ward was part of a Dundalk XI that beat Woodview Celtic 9-0 last week and he continues his return to the fold with a friendly tonight (Tuesday) against Irish League outfit Warrenpoint at Oriel Park.