Sunday 11 December 2016

We have squad to absorb loss of key players - Paddy Andrews

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

'We may already be in a league semi-final but we just want to keep it going,' says Paddy Andrews (SPORTSFILE)
'We may already be in a league semi-final but we just want to keep it going,' says Paddy Andrews (SPORTSFILE)

On the face of it, Dublin face into two dead rubbers to finish off their scheduled league campaign.

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But surely the arrival of the last team to beat the Dubs in a game of any real significance will sharpen the minds.

Donegal roll up in Croke Park on Saturday night and, inevitably, talk turns to the All-Ireland semi-final clash of 2014 where Jim McGuinness and Donegal outfoxed the defending champions.

Paddy Andrews featured as a sub that day and on his introduction he quickly found that chasing a game against that Donegal team was a lost cause.

Still, some good came from that day for Dublin as he believes that defeat has stood to them in the couple of seasons since.

"That game is nearly infamous now at this stage, but for us I think we addressed a lot of issues from that game," said the St Brigid's dynamo.

"That's all you have to do. When you lose games there's obviously lessons to be learned and they might be a bit more obvious than when you win games. You might not be playing perfectly either but certainly we had issues to address from that defeat.

"I think over the course of last season we certainly showed that we had taken heed of some of the aspects of that game. It's something that you'll always kind of remember, losing a big game like that."

Journey

Andrews was on the fringes of the team that day but looks to be a key part of the Dublin attack and can count himself unlucky not to pick up a first All-Star award last year.

It's been a long journey for him personally. He was one of the most talented Dublin players of his vintage to the point where he was fast-tracked to the senior team under Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey.

Since then, it's been far from plain sailing. He's been in and out of the team, been used as a corner-back to track Colm Cooper in 2009 and dropped from the squad altogether in 2011 as the Dubs ended their 16-year wait for Sam.

"Well, I hope so," Andrews replied when asked if, at 27, he is coming into his best years as a footballer. "That's the plan because I've been around since (I was) 19 maybe when I made my debut under Pillar and it just seems a long time ago.

"(It's) not just myself at the minute but the team is very settled too. Jim's been there for a number of years now and we've had that success and the systems that we play to, all the guys are kind of used to it at this stage and we're obviously used to playing with each other.

"Success gives you that confidence. We've played five games in the National League and we've won five probably without really hitting top gear but it's just that guys are just comfortable and we know what we're doing."

That Dublin are cruising along through the league without both Jack McCaffrey and Rory O'Carroll will come as a shot across the bows to their rivals.

"Rory and Jack are fantastic players, everyone knows that. But we're not overly reliant on one guy doing one job. Everyone in the group, the 34/35 guys that are still there know how we want to play, they know what works for our team, they know what doesn't work.

"If someone steps out, another lad can step in and you've probably seen that even in the five games to date in the league. I think we've made changes pretty much for every game and our performance hasn't really dropped off.

"Everyone knows what's expected of them so it's not overly reliant on any individual, good players as they are. I think we're well placed to absorb the losses."

The summer is coming into view now. Donegal and Dublin are expected to be jostling for position when the latter stages of the championship come around.

For the current Sky Blues, putting back-to-back titles together remains the only achievement of the great Dublin team of the 1970s that they haven't either equalled or surpassed.

But given his broad range of experience with Dublin, both good and bad, Andrews won't look too far ahead.

"To be honest, (Donegal) are just a very good team. They're obviously very hard to play against, same as most of the teams in Division 1.

"There might be a little bit extra obviously because of the recent history and because we've played in some really big games over the last number of years, some that have gone for us and some have gone for them.

"I suppose just that familiarity with how they play and what they bring to the table is there. But it's really just about us and trying to get that good performance and get the win.

"We may already be in a league semi-final but we just want to keep it going, whether it's against Donegal or Roscommon the following week."

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