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I'll stake claim when I'm fit

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Dublin's Peadar Andrews (left) and Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Dublin's Peadar Andrews (left) and Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Dublin's Peadar Andrews (left) and Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

PADDY ANDREWS is high up in Croke Park for the annual launch of the Allianz Football League, but he won't be on the famous pitch down below come Saturday night.

Why? Because – in common with quite a few of his All-Ireland winning teammates – he has spent the off-season trying to remedy the legacy effects of a long, gruelling but gloriously successful year for Dublin.

Andrews underwent Gilmore's groin surgery in December. He won't be fit to face Kerry this weekend, nor has he any specific comeback date in mind, but he hopes to see some action towards the latter end of the league.

And that, he concedes, is not exactly the ideal scenario for a 2013 Sky Blue regular with no guarantees in 2014.

The reason is all too apparent: when everyone's fit, just check out the competition in that Dublin forward line.

Just over a year ago, Andrews was rescued from the inter-county wilderness by Jim Gavin. He went on to start all nine games en route to the county's first league title in two decades.

He tallied 0-21 (all bar one point from play) in the process, thus ensuring he was on the team at the start of the championship grid.

"That's probably the worrying thing now," he says, only half-laughing, "when you're missing a couple of games, because there is such stiff competition.

"But in all fairness to Jim, he's very honest with players. If you're playing well and you're in the team, it doesn't matter who's waiting on the bench. If you're doing a job, he's not going to take you out of the team, which I think is a great approach to have for the players. They know that if they do get a chance and perform, they will hang onto the jersey.

"Please God I get the opportunity to get back in there at some stage and stake a claim again."

When might that be?

"There's not an exact date," he replies. "I'll hopefully get back later on in the league at some stage – maybe March."

The St Brigid's man remains hugely indebted to Gavin for last year's recall. Over the previous five seasons he played on almost every line – without ever quite nailing down a regular place, let alone a permanent positional home. As tends to happen, Mister Versatile ends up becoming Mister Expendable.

Upon assuming the Sky Blue hotseat, Gavin offered the tantalising carrot of another inter-county shot – in his favourite position. Instead of trouble-shooting at corner-back or battling for game time in a congested half-back or half-forward division, Andrews would be handed an occasionally roaming full-forward brief.

"That's my most natural position and everyone who knows me from my underage career, whether it be Dublin or St Brigid's or college, knows that's my most natural position. If you feel more comfortable in a position, you probably have a better chance of excelling in that spot, and that was certainly the case last year," he reflects. "I'd been in and out of the team, and to get that run of games just builds confidence," he adds, harking back to the league.

BOOST

"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."

And for the moment, his ability to do so has been compromised by the groin problem that manifested itself during last summer's Leinster championship. Having missed the provincial final against Meath and All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork, Andrews recovered sufficiently to start the semi-final and final ... but after that it was "just a matter of when and not if" he went under the knife.

Dr Gerry McEntee, who has managed Andrews for long spells of his senior club career, was entrusted with the surgery and it "went fine", without any hitches.

And while he will miss the season-dawning buzz of next Saturday night, he views 2014 with a bring-it-on, glass half-full attitude.

"It's a great opportunity this year to go out and be fully fit and have no niggles or anything," he enthuses.

"Most inter-county players would always have some sort of a knock being carried into the games, but I'm just really looking forward to this year now, that hopefully it will be a clean slate."


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