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Tommy Grealy/INPHO Dublin forward Paddy Andrews.
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Fit-again Andrews relieved to be in frame as season reaches fever pitch
And the St Brigid’s forward is confident that the Dubs haven’t peaked yet.

DESPITE FINISHING LAST season with a flourish and starting this campaign in similar fashion, right now Paddy Andrews is just delighted he’s fit enough to be putting his hand up for selection again.

The St Brigid’s forward kicked five points from play in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo before putting in a more workmanlike, but highly effective, performance in the final, in difficult conditions, against Kerry.

Andrews then began the this year’s league campaign in style; bagging 1-4 from play against the Kingdom at Croker.

A versatile, two-footed footballer with a savage appetite for work, Andrews has often been overshadowed by some of his more pronounced colleagues; the likes of Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan. But he is establishing himself as the Dublin forward who rises to the big occasion.

And he reinforced that reputation further by making a significant impact following his introduction as a half-time substitute in Dublin’s Leinster final win against Westmeath last Sunday.

Andrews’ introduction, along with a number of tactical changes by manager Jim Gavin, seemed to turn the tide almost instantaneously upon the resumption of the game. And the Dubs were soon out of sight despite being just one point to the good at the break.

For his part, Andrews was just delighted to be playing at all, having only recently overcome a back disc injury suffered in Dublin’s league semi-final win against Donegal, a knock that ruled him out of the league final victory against old foes Kerry, the Leinster championship opener against Laois, and restricted him to 15 minutes of action as a substitute against Meath.

His frustration had been building on the sidelines but Sunday’s 35 minutes of action started to release the valve.

“Obviously the way last season finished for me was great from my point of view, I really kicked on and confidence and that experience from games was invaluable to me throughout the early stages of the national league as well,” Andrews, 28, explained.

“I was really chomping at the bit to keep playing and obviously the team was going well and winning games, so when you have that momentum it’s always frustrating when you have to step out of it.

“It’s great [to be back] and it was just relief more than anything and I can kick on now.

“The way the game panned out on Sunday, it was great to get a half of football and the result went well.”

Paddy Andrews Dan Sheridan / INPHO Paddy Andrews at yesterday's announcement of a new partnership between Life Style Sports and Dublin GAA. The partnership sees Life Style Sports become Dublin GAA's official retail partner, extending across the Dublin senior football, hurling, ladies senior football and camogie teams. See Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

James McCarthy was a late injury withdrawal for Jim Gavin’s side and the absence of his powerful running from the half-back line was keenly felt in a static and frustrating first period.

It meant Dublin, who are already without 2015 All-Stars Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey for the rest of the season, were shorn of 50pc of last year’s All-Ireland-winning rearguard on Sunday.

A second-half re-jig saw Ciaran Kilkenny excel in an attacking half-back role, although Andrews admitted he is hoping to see McCarthy return in time for the Dubs’ next outing, an All-Ireland quarter-final on 6 August.

“James is a real quality player, the form he has been in throughout this season especially, and even last season, he is a real leader for us, he is a key player for us,” Andrews added.

It’s great that the injury is only a bit of a bang and we are hoping he will be back for the next day.

“It wasn’t as bad as was initially feared, or anything like that, which was great, because having lost Jack and Rory you don’t want to lose more quality players.”

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Sunday’s game played out almost like a carbon copy of the 2015 edition, something that can also be said of this year’s Leinster hurling final. That all-important third quarter has become the defining period for the province’s dominant forces.

The pre-match talk among both sets of fans, and even during the match too, it must be said, seemed to focus largely on the handicap betting with the bookies. The result was never really in doubt.

But the Dubs made themselves the centre of attention in the second period as they showcased their true attacking potential, some tasty long-range scores off their weaker feet, and two well-worked goals, the highlights. They were humming once again, but Andrews promises we’ve seen nothing yet.

“Have we reached our peak yet? Absolutely not,” Andrews added. 

“That’s what we’re going to be working on over the next couple of weeks, to push on. That’s the challenge. It’s the same for all the other teams.

I wouldn’t say any team in the championship so far has played to their potential.

“That’s what makes the rest of the season, especially the August Bank Holiday and the quarter-finals so exciting because it’s traditionally when teams come to the table with their best form and we start to see some really top matches, which probably hasn’t been the case so far.”

Here’s hoping.

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