George McMullan is hoping to return to action within the next 4-6 weeks after receiving some welcome news on Tuesday.
The Cliftonville captain admitted he thought his career was over after picking up a serious knee injury on the opening day of the season.
McMullan feared he had sustained cruciate ligament damage in the game against Ards – which would have ruled him out for the season.
But on Tuesday it was confirmed that the 32-year-old had injured his medial ligament and should be back within 4-6 weeks.
“It is a massive relief to be told I haven’t torn the cruciate,” said McMullan.
“I did fear the worst, and at 32 I was beginning to think my career could be over if the injury was as bad as first thought.
“To be told it is just medial ligament damage and that I should be back within a few weeks is great news.
“I just caught my left knee in the ground during the game with Ards and twisted it. I was ready to play on but I had to come off.
“It was painful afterwards, but it seems to be on the mend now.”
McMullan’s injury prognosis will come as welcome news for Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin.
The versatile midfielder – who spent most of last season playing at right-back – was a pivotal figure in the Reds’ title success.
And now McMullan is aiming to bounce back from his latest injury set-back and help the Solitude club defend the Gibson Cup.
“I am a terrible spectator, so Saturday’s game at Windsor Park was tough,” he said of Cliftonville’s 4-2 win against Linfield at the weekend.
“I find it hard even watching the lads train together, but I suppose I shouldn’t grumble too much.
“It is a pity that all the pre-season work has probably gone to waste, and it will be tough getting back up to speed.
“But if you offered me 4-6 weeks out compared to the rest of the season, I would have taken your hand off.”
One player not as fortunate as McMullan is Portadown defender Ross Redman who sustained a cruciate ligament injury during Saturday’s game at Coleraine – ruling the 23-year-old out for 6-9 months.
“That’s tough news for Ross, but I am sure he will bounce back,” McMullan added.
“He is a young lad and has time on his side, so he will definitely be back playing in the future.”