Dundalk defender Andy Boyle feels he will be back to his best for the start of the new campaign.

The centre half returned to the club last summer after a two-and-a-half year spell in the UK but without a pre-season under his belt failed to produce the kind of performances that earned him a move to Preston North End and a Republic of Ireland cap.

Having rested up at the end of last season, Boyle has been putting in the hard yards ever since with his performances in Spain against CFR Cluj – a game in which he scored – and against CSKA Moscow suggesting he is ready to hit the ground running this season.

The 28-year-old admitted it was tough being thrown in at the deep end last season.

“I got a week away but it’s not the same really because your body needs a certain amount of time and coming towards the end of the season you end up picking up little niggles that I’d never normally have.

“To be honest with you I probably had a couple of weeks out when we finished and then I worked hard in the off-season.

“I really feel the better of it to be honest with you. Pre-season is massive for any footballer so it’s good to get started.”

Boyle feels that is something he has had to do given the competition at centre back from Brian Gartland, Sean Hoare and Daniel Cleary.

“There’s massive competition all over the squad for places and centre half is no different.

“When you get the chance in pre-season you just have to perform to the best of your ability so that come the first league game you’re involved.

“That’s further down the road but for now we just want to get as fit as we can but to be fair I think this showed that we’re in good shape as a group.”

Boyle admitted to being impressed by newcomer Darragh Leahy and expects him to have a real battle with Dane Massey for the left back slot.

“Darragh was carrying a knock coming back so he hasn’t had loads of training under his belt so to perform the way he did was great.

“I thought he was against their best player for me but I thought he acquitted himself very well. He’s probably getting used to us as much as we’re getting used to Darragh but you can see he has got all the tools athletically and on the ball to be a top player but as you said we can’t write Dane off either because he has been brilliant for us.”

Speaking after the game against CFR Cluj on Wednesday, Boyle said there were plenty of positives to take from the game despite the Romanians scoring twice late on to cancel out his 26th minute opener and win 2-1.

“They’re a good side and their record shows that by what they’ve done in Europe this year. It was a great game for us and a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against probably the level that we want to get to which is to get to the Europa League group stages and play against top teams.

“First and foremost it’s about getting minutes under the belt. The performance then comes second but I thought both were good tonight. We played well at times and tried to play the right way. When you’re playing against an opposition with the quality that they have you need a bit of luck along the way but we probably maybe just ran out of a little bit of steam towards the end.

“I think in pre-season games when you make that many changes the game can fizzle out a little bit but they are a good side. You can see the quality that they have but as you said we’d probably fancy our chances of beating them if we had to in whatever competition we faced them in. That’s a good thing and something we can be very positive about.

“It’s good that we’ve ran a team like that so close so early in pre-season and we’re a bit disappointed to be honest that we haven’t come away with a draw but that’s secondary really.”

Boyle praised Michael Duffy for the quality of his corner that led to his goal.

“It was a great delivery,” he said.

“We kind of worked a little bit on set pieces this morning and that was one of the things that we had worked on because they go zonal. It was a drilled in ball and I just basically went and attacked it and thankfully it went in.

“We probably had the better chances overall but there wasn’t much in it at all. Their two goals probably come from slight things we can improve on but it’s still early days in pre-season and this trip to be fair gives us loads of time to prepare and let the manager work on our patterns of play,” he said.