Paul McElroy's lengthy lay-off a blow for revitalised Dungannon Swifts
Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree fears he has lost star player Paul McElroy for the rest of the season.
The talented winger suffered an ankle injury during training last Thursday night.
According to Dungannon's medical staff, he has an indent to the top of his talus - one of a group of bones around the ankle. He is due to undergo a scan and may need an operation.
The minimum lay-off will be three months, and McAree believes there is a strong possibility that one of local football's players of the season won't feature again this term.
The 21-year-old has scored nine times, including two in the 3-1 win over Glentoran on New Year's Day, and has been a key figure in Swifts' recent good form.
McAree said: "Paul is out, maybe for the rest of the season. We are hoping to get him a CT scan and he might need an operation.
"It looks as if it is going to be a minimum of three months. He could be out for the season. It is a massive blow, Paul has been doing exceptionally well. However, we can't rely on one individual. It's a collective challenge and others have to step up to the mark."
McElroy was not involved as Dungannon beat Warrenpoint to progress to the sixth round of the Irish Cup at the weekend.
Young striker Conor Mullen was handed a chance up front and scored in the Swifts' 4-3 win. They are now unbeaten in four games for the first time in almost a year.
However, they face a huge test against resurgent Linfield this weekend at Windsor Park, where they have never won a league fixture.