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Keith goes back to his roots

THE ACADEMY of La Masia in Barcelona is garnering a lot of attention as the greenhouse for some of the best footballing talent in the world.

But the little old DDSL isn't doing all that badly - as was pointed out at the PFAI awards in Dublin on Saturday night, seven of the Ireland team which effectively sealed a place in the European Championship finals came through the ranks of the Dublin and District Schoolboy League (Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and Robbie Keane).

For Artane-born Andrews, it's a case of bringing it all back home, back to where their dreams began.

"It's brilliant to see so many lads from the Dublin leagues in an Ireland team that is now close to qualifying for a major finals. That's where we all started," he said.

"It's something for the young lads playing for Stella and Home Farm and St Kevin's now to aim for; there's a good few of us in the squad who came up through the DDSL. They can see what you can achieve in the game if you're good enough and work hard enough," added Andrews, who has not forgotten his roots.

"I was with Stella Maris and we had a very successful team, we won eight or nine league titles in a row, and I think 14 of that team went away to England. We had lads like Richie Partridge and Joe Murphy in the team. I remember turning up for the Ireland U15 and U16 squads and we had eight or nine Stella lads in there.

"And we had a great set up there under Gerry Reddy, we had some fantastic footballers and that's where it all began, that's where we learned the ground rules.

"It gave us the platform to get trials with clubs in England and get our careers going and I have never looked back."