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Stephen lines up Dundalk return

DUNDALK captain Stephen O'Donnell has given himself a chance of making a return to action before the end of the season.

The Galway native has been sideldined since April after he suffered a knee injury in a league game against his former club Shamrock Rovers. O'Donnell has missed the subsequent 21 league games as well as key matches in the cup competitions for Dundalk.

But O'Donnell has made rapid progress in his recovery and could even feature in Friday's league game away to Athlone Town, while he could also make his return next Monday at home to Shamrock Rovers.

But for a player who initially had been written off for the season due to injury, to be even close to a first team return is a massive bonus.

"It's a great feeling. If you gave me this opportunity when I first got the injury, I would have snapped the hand off you. So I am delighted to be where I am at the minute," says O'Donnell.

The next two games - Athlone on Friday and Rovers on Monday - could possibly come too soon for O'Donnell though he could go to play a part in the final matches of their league campaign, against Bray Wanderers (October 17th) and possible title decider at home to second-placed Cork City on the last day of the season.


"That's totally up to the manager," he says of a possible return this weekend.

"If the manager thinks it's too early, that's totally his prerogative. I won't be complaining one way or the other. I will just try and put myself in the best position. I have full faith in his judgement. He's a shrewd judge and if he thinks I am not ready, then I am not ready. I will leave that up to him."

O'Donnell has been working hard since the incident in April but even he's been surprised at his progress.

"I don't know if I was ahead of schedule. I gave myself three weeks after the operation to let it sink in and treat myself to a bit of comfort eating," admitted the former Arsenal trainee.

"I then just made a focused effort on getting myself right, because I know if I was to get back it would be near the end of the season.

"I needed to be in the best physical shape I could be in to even try and help make a contribution, because it's only a closed window, I have only four games. They avoided needing my help all season, so I will be only too glad to help in any way I can, if I am called upon."

And he remains wary of the opposition on Friday, mindful that Dundalk scraped a 1-0 win on their last visit to Athlone, three days after his injury in April.

"We didn't play well down in Athlone, but we still won the game. We always know we are in a game if we don't concede and we can always create a chance, if we are playing well or not playing well. We are just fully focused on Friday, to put in a big performance," he says.