Paddy Andrews being driven on by wealth of young talent
Dublin player accepts new black card as just another rule that has to be adhered to
Dublin’s Paddy Andrews in action against Kerry’s Mark Griffin in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. The full forward knows he’ll have a fight on his hands to get his place back in the side.
He’s recovering from minor surgery, won’t be playing again for several more weeks, and therefore perfectly suited to analyse Dublin’s prospects of defending their Allianz Football League title – and indeed their All-Ireland.
Because Paddy Andrews is certainly not alone: Dublin will begin the defence of title number one against Kerry on Saturday missing about half their All-Ireland-winning line-up, and not all due to injury.
Diarmuid Connolly and Ger Brennan are both focusing on next month’s All-Ireland club semi-final with their club St Vincent’s, while manager Jim Gavin currently has a list of injured players that includes Bernard Brogan, Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Flynn and James McCarthy, along with All-Ireland-winning substitutes Eoghan O’Gara, Dean Rock and Denis Bastick.
“I suppose at this time of year you have the luxury where you’re not down to a time scale, whereas it would be in the summer,” says Andrews, who brilliantly filled the full-forward role for Dublin last year, having firmly nailed down that position by featuring in every single one of their league games in 2013.
“Hopefully I’ll get back later on in the league at some stage – maybe March. But we’ve got plenty of guys who are going to get a chance on Saturday and throughout the earlier rounds of the league, with so many more established or older guys are injured.”
It turns out that for much of last summer, Andrews was hampered by a Gilmore’s groin injury – increasingly frequent among intercounty players: he got through 2013, before surgery became less optional and more required.
“It probably does come from the sheer volume of training you are doing, and just a build-up over the years. I put it off as long as I possibly could, but it was the best time to get it done around Christmas time.
“In fairness, our medical guys look after us very well, and we get a lot of opinions on what is the best way to go about it. But for me personally it had got to the stage where surgery was probably the best thing to get me back on the pitch, playing, as soon as possible.”
It helped that leading surgeon Gerry McEntee, who also coaches him at St Brigid’s, was at hand to perform the operation – and so far so good: “Obviously, for big games, you want to be at 100 per cent, and if you’re not it tends to be shown up, because of the pace of the game, and how hard the championship has become. But look, I got through it in the end and we got to play and we won an All-Ireland, so I’m happy enough.”
The only slight concern Andrews has about his lay-off is that it may mean having to win back his place in the forward line – such is Dublin’s apparently unstoppable conveyor belt of talent.
“Players know that if they do get a chance and perform, they will hang onto the jersey. Before last year I’d been in and out of the team, and to get a run of games in the league like I did just builds confidence. It was a great boost for me, for Jim to show that faith in me, but it doesn’t really count for anything now for a new season. It’s about doing it all over again.”
What Andrews has no fear about is the new black card – sensibly accepting it now as just another rule in the book that has to be adhered to.
“The whole idea with the black card is to try to make the game more free-flowing and take that cynical aspect out of it. We’re wholly behind that and are advocates of playing free-flowing attacking football, so we support it. There’s obviously going to be a bit of a teething period in the first couple of league games. But that’s the rules now, so you just have to get used to it.”
So, with Dublin’s full-forward position currently open for grabs, Andrews will be eagerly awaiting who gets the nod, and he won’t be the only one. “We’ve spoken about having such a strong panel and guys pushing for places, so it’s about showing that.
“There are opportunities there on Saturday, and for a young guy or someone who hasn’t played much, what an opportunity is it. to play against Kerry in Croke Park on a Saturday night.
“We’re very fortunate in Dublin, too, with the underage players coming through, not just the likes of Cormac Costello. You saw it last year with Jack McCaffrey, Ciarán Kilkenny. We’ve had success at underage and that just shows the work that’s gone in. Those guys are going to get opportunities and they’re really driving the experienced guys on and that competition is going to stand to us.”