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Ward sweats over surgery

PJ WARD is waiting on tenterhooks to see if he'll be able to resume his inter-county career with Offaly this year.

The former Westmeath footballer, who transferred county allegiance to Offaly three years ago, had a lucky escape when involved in a potentially devastating car crash in late September.

But what he initially thought was a relatively minor shoulder injury has proven far more problematic, and he'll discover in the next few weeks whether surgery is required. If so, he could miss out on the entire season.

"I did damage to the rotary cuff in the shoulder, and to a muscle called the supraspinatus," Ward told the Evening Herald. "At the time I thought I would be back within a month."

Instead, the Mountjoy prison officer missed out on his planned comeback in the Dublin inter-firms final, was out of work for two months and, even now, his shoulder is causing grief. He has done some weights but the joint is still losing power when it gets tired.

"I had an MRI scan, showing the damage. I've had injections to try and repair it without having surgery. We are just waiting to see how it pans out with the injections," he outlined.

Ward's prognosis should become clearer at the end of this month when he sees a neurologist to assess nerve damage. If surgery isn't required, he hopes to be back playing within six to eight weeks but the alternative could see him out of action for the year.

"With most shoulder injuries like that, you are gone for roughly four months ... and the way I am with my work, I would be more than likely not able to have the surgery until next September," explained the Shamrocks forward, who turns 27 next month.

Still, Ward accepts that his fate could have been far worse. "I was on the motorway," he recalled. "Just as I was passing out, the back tyre blew out, I hit the side of a lorry and then the central barrier on the motorway, and that sent me back under the trailer of the lorry. So I was lucky."

Ward first caught the eye on the Westmeath minor team that overhauled Dublin with a barnstorming finish to the 2000 Leinster minor final. Having progressed into the senior ranks, he then moved across the county boundary to make his Offaly debut in 2007.

He is desperate to play this season, partly as a pay-back to Tom Cribbin who took over the managerial reins last February following the controversial player-heave against Richie Connor.

"I was late getting back onto the panel last year, I was struggling to get my fitness up and Tom was very patient. Then I got sent off against Limerick (in a game that Offaly won to preserve their NFL Division Three status).

"In fairness he stood by me, he saw potential in me to be an inter-county footballer and gave me my chance against Wexford (in the qualifiers)."

Ward scored five points in Wexford Park as Offaly restored lost pride in a narrow defeat, going down by 2-11 to 0-16. It made some amends for their limp Leinster exit to Kildare, when Ward didn't feature. "In fairness to Tom, he only had 10 or 11 weeks to prepare Offaly for the championship last year," the free-taker pointed out. "We should be looking at a very positive year with Tom, because he has all the right things in place ... and hopefully I can build on Wexford and have a productive season with Offaly, and repay Tom for the faith that he put in me last year."

Cribbin is hoping to have the Darby brothers back in action this spring. Niall, who tore his cruciate, is hoping for the all-clear to resume contact training in the next week although the manager cautioned that he "definitely won't be ready for the first half of the league". Brian has rested a groin problem for a couple of months and should be stepping up his comeback efforts soon.