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'I got the feel of it, enjoyed it again, stayed on' - the All-Ireland winner playing club football at 55

After a stellar career with Down, Mickey Linden continues to show what he can do for Mayobridge.

24 YEARS AFTER lifting Sam with Down, Mickey Linden didn’t expect to be still making headlines as a result of his Gaelic football exploits.

Mickey Linden celebrates his goal 20/6/1999 Down football legend Mickey Linden. Source: ©INPHOAndrew Paton

But the clip that surfaced last month of Linden firing over a point in a reserve football game for his club Mayobridge at the age of 55, was a reminder of the attacking genius he possessed.

“The thing about it was, I only came on for about 15 minutes towards the end of that game,” outlines Linden.

“The game was effectively over. The fellas had all done the hard work. I haven’t really stopped training or playing. I don’t play as much obviously but when it comes around to the reserve championship this last couple of years, (I play).

“I had sort of quit playing and one of the managers approached me because they were short players two years ago and said, “listen, would you come back? We’re struggling. Only have 14 or 15 players for this championship match, would you come back and play?”

“That got me roped back in. Then I got the feel of it, enjoyed it again, stayed on. Played on through that championship. Did the same since. Just came in for championship and joined the lads, enjoyed the craic.”

Linden’s career yielded a collection of golden moments. He was part of Down’s All-Ireland glories in 1991 and 1994, while also triumphing on Ulster and National league stages.

At club level he helped Mayobridge end an 80-year wait for Down senior club glory in 1999, the springboard for eight titles in 10 seasons as they reigned supreme. He made his name as a corner-forward of renown and is glad to have played at a time when the game was more open.

“I do honestly count my blessings that I played in the era I played in because we hadn’t got two or three defenders to beat. Most of the time you had one-on-ones. You might have got teamed up with two players but generally, you were getting the ball in more direct, you had more opportunities to go past your man, be more direct.

“Now fellas I feel are more in the habit of turning back because there are so many defenders. Unless you have the big open spaces of Croke Park which is hard to nullify.

“It can be hard for a corner-forward now to express himself, show his skills the way we could back in the ’90s. Possibly the offensive mark may work (as part of the new rule changes).

Mickey Linden 1994 Down v Dublin Mickey Linden celebrates Down's 1994 All-Ireland final victory with supporters. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I would love to see the kick-outs going past the 45 but I understand that practically can’t work for all levels of football. We need to bring in rules that work across the board.

“Something has to happen with the coaches more than the players. That’s where the biggest problem lies.”

He’s watched his own county’s long wait for glory drag on, Down without an Ulster senior title now since 1994.

“Certainly in Down we didn’t think it would be 25 years since we won an Ulster final. We have been close, particularly in 2010. But we just don’t seem to be getting the same quality coming through to senior level.

“Having said all that, we had a good U20 team last year. There are five or six lads who you’d say will come through to senior level, and we haven’t had that for four or five years. Hopefully they will come through and make a difference.”

The recruitment of Paddy Tally to the manager post for 2019 is something that pleases Linden.

“I was delighted with it. I think we needed to go that way. We’ve nearly expended anybody with in the county who could do the job. Maybe it is time yes to bring in someone like Paddy who will give a fresh look to it.”

  • Mickey Linden will be inducted into the Gaelic Writers Association (GWA) Hall of Fame tonight at a gala dinner in Dublin’s Woolen Mills, where a number of current and former players will be honoured at the 2018 awards.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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