Keith Ward has returned to Dundalk as Stephen O'Donnell continues to build his squad at Oriel Park, while Lee Desmond has left St Patrick's Athletic after seven season to join Sacramento Republic.

31-year-old creative midfielder Ward spent three seasons with the Lilywhites at the turn of the last decade.

In 2011, he arrived from UCD and worked under Ian Foster during the 2011 campaign at Oriel Park before coming back in 2013 for a two-year stint under Stephen Kenny.

Ward made a total of 73 appearances across both periods - finding the net on seven occasions - and departed after helping the Lilywhites to the SSE Airtricity League title and EA Sports Cup in 2014.

"I'm delighted to be back," he told said.

"When I left in 2014 and Dundalk went on to have the success it did, I didn’t expect to ever be back but when I was given the opportunity, it was an easy decision. I know a lot of familiar faces around the club and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in January."

Ward has also lined out with Sligo Rovers and Derry City but made his name with Bohemians, where he spent the last five seasons.

"I had a great time at Bohs," he said.

"I absolutely loved it there and had a great relationship with the supporters and the players. The club is in a great place under Keith Long and it was a tough decision to leave but it was one I think I needed to make to take another challenge somewhere else."

Ward’s last game for Bohs came in November’s FAI Cup final defeat to St Patrick’s Athletic at the Aviva Stadium.

After coming off the bench to set up Rory Feely’s goal in extra time, he subsequently missed Bohs’ vital fifth penalty in the shootout.

New Dundalk FC head coach Stephen O’Donnell was the first man to console Ward afterwards and he said he was looking forward to working with his ex-Lilywhites teammate again.

"Keith has matured massively since he left the club in 2014 and went to Bohemians," said O'Donnell.

"He will be huge around the place in terms of his personality but I think people kind of sleep on Keith’s ability. He has talent that most players in this league just don’t have.

"If a game is tight, he can find a pass and unlock a team and he will add so much to us, on off the pitch. When he came on in the FAI Cup final he showed one or two moments of real quality. He is a striker’s dream and if you provide the movement, he will find you."

Lee Desmond is on his way out of Richmond Park

Elsewhere, Lee Desmond is on his way to the United States after agreeing to join USL side Sacramento Republic.

He made 225 appearances for the Saints, including in last month's FAI Cup final victory over Bohemians. He also won two League Cup titles in 2015 and 2016.

"On behalf of everyone at St Patrick's Athletic, I'd like to thank Lee for his loyalty and service to the club over the last seven year," said St Patrick's Athletic Chairman Garrett Kelleher.

"Lee joined us following the FAI Cup win in 2014 and it is fitting that his time at the club ended with our recent Cup win.

"Lee's performances for St Pat's were a joy to watch, his commitment, dedication, enthusiasm and most importantly his footballing ability have been exemplary.

"He is still just 26, so to have played for the club for seven seasons, and to have made 225 appearances is a tribute to his professionalism both on and off the pitch.

"We are disappointed to be losing Lee but understand his ambitions to move to America and start a new life, something he and I frequently discussed.

"Lee is a massive fan favourite and is a popular figure both at St Patrick's Athletic and across our league, demonstrated by the reaction to that frightening incident at our home game against Waterford in August.

"His presence at Richmond Park will be sadly missed by everyone here, we will all be looking forward to watching his progress in America. Sacramento have recruited a rare gem!"