GAA Football

Dublin forward Andrews holds no grudge against Tyrone's Morgan

Paddy Andrews recovered from a broken jaw to start against Tyrone in Healy Park last month.
Picture Seamus Loughran
Paul Keane

DUBLIN forward Paddy Andrews insists he doesn't hold any grudge against Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan for the broken jaw which badly set back his season.

Back in mid-March, playing against the Red Hands in the Allianz League Division One at Croke Park, Andrews had his jaw smashed in a challenge from the Edendork club-man.

Controversy ensued on social media, with the incident even getting a predictable label, but Andrews regarded it as a sporting accident.

"Jaw-gate?" asks the St Brigid's player. "Yeah, it was mad. I got the bang and before I even hit the ground, I knew something was up."

Running to collect a ball on the left wing at the Hill 16 End, he'd just gathered possession when goalkeeper Morgan caught him with the point of his left shoulder after a steaming run across.

At 30 - he has since turned 31 - and having not featured in Dublin's last two Championship games of 2018, Andrews' hopes of nailing down a jersey this summer perhaps ended there and then.

Yet asked if he holds a grudge against Morgan, he discounts that idea: "He sent me a message a couple of days after and that was fine.

"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.

"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."

Life in the Dublin camp moved on at a rapid pace in Andrews' absence. In the final game of the league, against Cavan, Sean Bugler came on and scored a point, a role Andrews might have fulfilled if not injured. Bugler was then 'Man of the Match' in that Super 8s game against Tyrone.

Andrews also started that match in Healy Park, scoring a point as part of a largely second string Dublin side, but in truth he has slipped down the pecking order given Dublin's riches in attack.

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

He has a fighting chance considering he came on against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final, albeit as the last man on in stoppage time. All he can say for certain is that he feels fit and sharp, ready to go.

"By the time I got back on the pitch, that was seven weeks and I felt okay then," he said. "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 gum-shield 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 all right."

Andrews had to recover from a different sort of trauma a decade ago, one to which he also attaches the grim suffix '-gate'.

'Gooch-gate' came at the beginning of his senior career when he was cleaned out by the Kerry great in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-finals. The day of the 'startled earwigs', as Dubling manager Pat Gilroy labelled his own team afterwards.

As Dublin find themselves on the brink of history, aiming for football's first ever five-in-a-row, 'Gooch-gate' is relevant.

The Dubs are preparing to face Kerry, a decade on from being beaten by 17 points by the Kingdom in that 2009 All-Ireland quarter-finals. Colm Cooper scored 1-7 that day, the majority of it off Andrews, who curiously began his inter-county life as a corner-back.

"David Henry was on him for the goal [Cooper scored] virtually from the throw-in," recalled Andrews. "I think he slid into the post. So I got switched onto him for the next 20 points from play that he got that day!

"It was funny. I remember Colin Moran was a selector, he'd just retired. He ran on and said, 'Henno's after getting a bang. You're going over to mark the Gooch'.

"I was like, 'The Gooch!' That was my reaction. That was probably part of the reason why we were so outplayed that day. But again, what was I? 20 or 21 at the time? You learn a lot. And they were valuable lessons to be learned."

As Andrews noted, "I never played corner-back again after Gooch-gate", and, truth be told, it took him a while to get going as a forward too.

"Looking back now, you cringe, of course," he said. "I just didn't do enough in preparing or getting the best out of myself. I'd love to have had the mentality back then that I do now. But it's all part of learning, as a player and as a person".

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