DUNDALK are still coming to terms with the shock news that Keith Ward is set to miss the remainder of the season with a cruciate knee injury.
The 22-year-old midfielder, who had played in all the club's 17 games this season, went down towards the end of the St Patrick's clash with what was initially thought to be a cartilage problem, and it was only last Tuesday evening that the severity of the injury emerged.
But Stephen Kenny is backing him to come back with all guns blazing next season.
'I have no doubt he'll come back stronger,' the manager said. 'He is only 22, it's easy to forget that he is still a young player. He has years ahead of him.
'It's a setback to him. He's full of energy around the place, not only in training but in general he is full of life.
'Keith is a big loss to us. He has had an excellent season so far. He has shown his quality and his versatility in a number of different roles. He has been outstanding and will be a big miss.
'[But] he will come back stronger from this and he'll be a better player.'
The midfielder firstly announced the news on his twitter account before it was confirmed by the Lilywhites.
'I am in shock to be honest,' the former Bohs man said in the aftermath of the diagnosis.
'The injury was painful on Friday night and I couldn't really sleep, but I thought it had been improving and was beginning to walk on it. However, the news from the scan showed that it is much more serious
than feared. I was dropping off to pick the ball up from Sullo when I heard a crack in my knee. I knew that wasn't good, but it wasn't too sore. Paul Cheshire came on and asked if I was able to put pressure on it, but it was no good so I had to come off.
'After the game it was feared that it could be a cartilage problem. I was warned that it would be painful and it would swell up. Even though it was sore it didn't swell up, so I was quite optimistic.
'It's bad for me, but it's not a major disaster for the team. We are getting a bit of recognition now for playing good football. I think we can keep it going.'