Paddy Andrews ready to offer Dublin another experienced option

St Brigid’s man fully recovered from broken jaw and eager to contribute if required

Paddy Andrews grimly refers to it now as jaw-gate.

Five months on from having his jaw smashed by the point of Niall Morgan’s shoulder, he’s even found a dark humour in it.

“I was very quiet for a couple of weeks, which was unlike me,” the Dublin forward smiled.

Not that he was in any mood for joking at the time. Racing down the left wing to collect a ball at the Hill 16 End of Croke Park during the Allianz League game against Tyrone, he’d just gathered possession when Tyrone goalkeeper Morgan came steaming in from the side. Bang!

“Before I even hit the ground, I knew something was up,” said Andrews. “The doctor and the physio ran on and I said, ‘Don’t touch me here, I know there’s something wrong’. There was blood coming out of my mouth so they said, ‘Look, we just need to have a look, lift your head up’. So I lifted my head up and the whole jaw popped out, so I had a fair idea that I was under pressure then.”

Andrews still winces at the thought of the pain.

“It was horrendous,” he said, outlining how he underwent surgery the next day, couldn’t eat or sleep properly for weeks and watched his weight plummet.

At 30 – he has since turned 31 – and having not featured at all in Dublin’s last two games of the 2018 championship, it amounted to getting his feet stuck in quicksand when what he really required was a fast start to the summer of 2019.

Just days out now from arguably the most important All-Ireland final ever played, Andrews is almost certain not to start against Kerry.

Unlike the 2018 championship, when he began four of their first six games, he's only made four substitute appearances this summer and started the dead rubber against Tyrone when Jim Gavin gave his squad members and rookies a run.

You put it to Andrews that he could easily hold a grudge against Morgan.

“He sent me a message a couple of days after and that was fine,” said the St Brigid’s man. “To be honest, some people were getting kind of worked up about it, and maybe it was naive of me but I don’t think anyone would have ever gone out to injure another player.

“Of course there’s going to be collisions and things like that, it happens in a game, but I don’t think anyone would ever intentionally endanger someone.

“I took that at face value from Niall as well, and I actually had a very brief chat with him in Omagh after the [Super 8s] game.

Rapid pace

“You just kind of move on from it and focus on getting back as soon as you can, getting back out and getting some game time. That’s probably the most pressing thing, to get back on the pitch as soon as possible.”

Nobody needs to remind Andrews that life moves at a rapid pace in the Dublin camp. Sure, there is a core bunch of players that Jim Gavin probably can't do without but new players – or old, in the case of Rory O'Carroll and Diarmuid Connolly – are constantly being weaved in, adding to the competition for places.

In the final game of the league, for instance, Sean Bugler came on against Cavan and scored a point, a role Andrews might have fulfilled if not injured, and Bugler was man of the match against Tyrone in the Super 8s.

Paddy Small has emerged as a go-to forward from the bench for Dublin too, featuring in six of their seven championship games so far and returning 0-7. Throw in Connolly, Bernard Brogan, Cormac Costello, Eoghan O’Gara and Kevin McManamon and there’s no guarantee Andrews will even make the 26 next weekend.

All he can say for certain is that he feels fit and sharp. Ready to go if required.

“I feel great now,” he said.

“By the time I got back on the pitch, that was seven weeks and I felt okay then. I think it’s more just the sharpness. We played Cork in a challenge match, that was my first game back and I was nervous about it. I had to get a special gumshield made and obviously you’re quite wary of getting another bang.

“The surgeons were happy that the bone had healed. I had two metal plates put in so it’s probably stronger now than it has ever been. Once you get the first couple of bangs out of the way, then you’re alright.”