CONOR Kenna knew he would have a long and arduous route back when he suffered a horrendous knee injury in March, but he didn't realise just how obscure it could get.
The St Patrick's Athletic captain is in the Ukraine today having finally made his return to action against Sligo Rovers on Saturday. The defender was on the bench in the Kazhak city of Karagandy but hopes to lead his team out this evening against Karpaty Lviv for what would be his European debut.
Those deputising for him have done a good job of keeping the Saints on track this season and Kenna has been frustrated on the sidelines.
But he's hoping he can contribute to their difficult task against the highly rated Ukrainians, who played in the Europa League group stages last year.
"I've gone from main man to nobody's man," Kenna admitted. "It's been hard to take, the worst injury I've ever had. The lads have been doing well and you don't feel part of it.
"I kept setting dates in my head for a comeback but it wasn't happening and it made it more frustrating.
"I tore the tendon just above my kneecap. Where it is, you don't really see it in young athletes -- it's more older people and they don't really operate on it -- you can't inject it because it's hidden under the kneecap, so I had to let it heal."
Having overcome the challenge of Iceland's IBV and Shakhter Karagandy, and played away from home in the first leg, Kenna said they won't fear the might of Karpaty this evening. Other than the suspended Daryl Kavanagh and Stephen Bradley, manager Pete Mahon has a clean bill of health.
"We watched a DVD of Lviv on the bus on the way to Sligo," he said. "It was one of their pre-season games. They have a few good players with a few Brazilians in their team. They'll be very good technically.
"The teams that we've played are full-time teams and we've beaten them well in the second legs. It's all down to the first leg -- if you can keep it tight and bring it home then you've a chance. It's all about being positive, not being afraid when you go away."