Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Linden targets Under 21 glory for Down

Down legend Mickey Linden knows all about winning All Irelands.

He was a key figure when the Mourne county captured the Sam Maguire in both 1991 and 1994.

And he’s confident a new generation of Down footballers can follow in his footsteps when they face Cork in Monday’s All Ireland Under 21 final in Portlaoise.

Now coach to manager Peter McGrath, he’s delighted at the manner in which the team has blossomed in recent weeks.

He must also be thrilled that the team is playing with the kind of flair that made Linden a household name in the 80’s and 90’s.

The Ulster champions have never looked back from overcoming Tyrone in the opening round of the Ulster championship and now they stand just 70 minutes away from All Ireland glory.

It’s been very much a gradual build up as Linden explains.

“Early in the season we had players missing and we didn’t look that impressive in the Cremartin tournament Cup.

“But as our players returned you could sense a gradual improvement.

“But we were always aware we were heading into a very competitive Ulster championship.

“The feeling was that it was between Tyrone, Armagh and ourselves and in the end we had to overcome both Tyrone and Armagh to get our hands on the trophy.”

Down wasted little time from the moment they edged out Armagh in a thrilling Ulster decider.

Three days later they proved too strong for Mayo in the All Ireland semi final.

“There’s no substitute for winning and those victories against Armagh and Mayo moved us on to a different level.

“The fact we managed to avoid picking up any injuries also made a massive difference..

“Now the hope is we can go all the way and lift the silverware.” he added.