Last Thursday marked the end of a torturous seven months for Keith Ward as he was finally given the green light to resume his football career.
The talented attacker has been out of action since June 13 of last year after sustaining damage to the cruciate ligament in his right knee during Dundalk’s 2-1 win over St Patrick’s Athletic.
However, Ward received the news he so badly wanted to hear when he visited the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry last week and, speaking after training at Oriel Park that night, the 23-year-old, who is lively at the best of times, couldn’t hide his delight.
“I had the operation in Santry so I had to go back for a few tests,” he said. “It was all very high-tech and pretty cool. It’s great to get it done and I know now that I have nothing to worry about and I’m looking forward to getting back playing.”
Even though he expected to get the all clear, Ward said that hearing the words from the surgeon gave him some reassurance.
Any nagging feelings, he said, were now gone.
“They’ve done everything and I know now that I am good to go and there’s nothing to worry about. There is still pain and I can still feel it but that will go over time.”
The former Bohemians and UCD star paid tribute to the time and effort put in by Dundalk physio Paul Cheshire in assisting with his rehab. A lonely process for any footballer, Ward said it took him time to adapt to the new schedule put in front of him.
“It had its ups and down,” he admitted. “Obviously, because we were doing well it was enjoyable coming to watch the games. The flip side of that is that you want to be involved.
“The good thing is that I knew when I had the operation that I wouldn’t be involved again until this pre-season so that meant I could accept it a bit better.
“Rehab was tough,” he continued. “I’ve never experienced an injury like that before so you don’t know what it’s going to be like until you’re in that situation.
“The hardest part was coming in to training and the lads would be all heading out to the pitch and you have to go to work in the gym on your own.
“Over Christmas I was up with Paul Cheshire a lot doing one on ones. I can’t thank Paul enough for what he did with me but it’s not nice being out running on your own with the physio. You just want to be involved with the lads.”
With the new season just over four weeks away, Ward’s primary focus is on getting back to full match fitness. A new contract with Dundalk is expected to be finalized this week and the 23-year-old, who has made 50 appearances for the Lilywhites, is itching to get back involved.
“They have the chain on me. I’m trying to get out but they won’t let me,” he laughed. “It’d be nice to get a few touches but Paul has been here with a few players before and he knows best. Another few weeks won’t kill me and my time will come. The doc told me that I need to build up my quads because I’ve lost muscle in my thighs. A good, hard month of training should do me.”