CONOR McCarthy has not ruled out being fit for the end of this season but insists he will not rush himself back too soon.
The Irish centre-back suffered a serious knee injury in September and was expected to miss the whole season.
But he could potentially be back in full training by April or May when the Reds will hope to still be in contention for promotion the Championship.
McCarthy told the Chronicle: “I genuinely haven’t put a timeline on it.
“When I spoke to the surgeon he mentioned it was possible to be back in six months, which is the beginning of April.
“It’s whether I push myself to that or not. It might be difficult if the team are doing well and we have a chance of getting promoted. Of course, I would love to be involved in that but it’s very difficult to say what situation I will be in or the team will be in come April or May.
“It will be a decision by the medical team and the manager.
“It would be unbelievable to be back this season, I would snap your hand off for one minute of gametime.
“But the last thing I want to do is put my knee under extra strain and force myself back. The worst case scenario will be pre-season for next season.”
McCarthy had an operation on his knee and is no longer on crutches.
He will return to County Cork for a family Christmas but will continue his rehabilitation.
“It’s going really well. I am eight weeks post-op and really beginning to see progress. The strength is starting to come back in my quads, calves and hamstrings. I am starting to move around a bit more freely which is really pleasing for me.
“I have been on the cross-trainer for the last week and a half. The next step is the anti-gravity treadmill after we see the surgeon in early January. I will start off with about 50 per cent of my bodyweight going through my knee then work my way down to my full bodyweight.
“Then I will be back on the grass training with the physios for a month or so then the sports scientists for a month or so then non-contact training with the team then full contact training.”