'Keith is a big loss to us' - Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny disappointed as Ward ruled out for the rest of season

The midfielder suffered knee ligament damage and will play no further part in the 2013 Airtricity Premier Division, putting a dent in Dundalk's European aspirations
Dundalk midfielder Keith Ward has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury, but manager Stephen Kenny feels the 22-year-old will 'come back stronger' next year.

Ward had played in every Lilywhites game this season, impressing in midfield with Richie Towell as the Louth club broke into the top four, and sit just six points behind leaders St Patrick's Athletic at the mid-season break.

Kenny believes that Ward has been a key part of Dundalk's league campaign so far, and greatly praised the young midfielder. “Keith is a big loss to us," Kenny told the club's official website. "He has had an excellent season so far. He has shown his quality and his versatility in a number of different roles this season. He has been outstanding and will be a big miss.

"I have deployed him in several roles – at the top of the diamond behind the front two, off the main striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation and even out on the left in certain games recently. I utilised him in various positions and he has been fantastic."

The midfielder started 15 of Dundalk's 17 league games so far this season, and came off the bench in the other two, winning further plaudits from his manager. "The two times I have left him out of the starting XI were for tactical reasons but both times he came on and changed the game," Kenny said. "Against Drogheda United in March, he came on when were 2-0 down and totally transformed us. Then last week against St. Pat’s, he was terrific when he came on this time in a centre midfield role. He was so inventive in both those games it’s very disappointing that he is out."

Ward will play no further part in Dundalk's League of Ireland campaign this season, but Kenny believes the midfielder has a bright future ahead of him, and can come back a better player after the injury. "I have no doubt he’ll come back stronger," Kenny 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. He will come back stronger from this and he’ll be a better player."