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GOLDEN: vins to RAISE 'BAR

IT'S the lopsided nature of the club championship beast. After their Leinster final victory over Portlaoise, St Vincent's had to wait virtually 10 weeks before relaunching their All-Ireland SFC campaign against Ballinderry.

Ten weeks: sounds like an eternity. Especially when measured against the Marino men's schedule back in early November: three gruelling championship battles in the space of eight days.

"That's something that should well be looked at," reckons Kevin Golden, speaking of the crazy fixture logjams that tend to affect an entirely blameless constituency – the humble club player – when delayed county finals mesh with provincial club championships at the onset of winter.

It's a moot point whether you blame the GAA's multi-layered structures or muddling administration for this fixture mess. Of course, some of you might even attempt to incriminate Golden, for the above example would never have materialised but for his late goal in the drawn Dublin county final.

The evergreen sub's timely strike ignited the unlikeliest of comebacks against Ballymun Kickhams: from five points down with time almost up, St Vincent's hit 1-2 to force extra-time. This ended in stalemate and, hence, the requirement for a Wednesday night replay, where they eventually toppled the holders.

There was no time to celebrate, let alone rest weary bones, as Vins ventured to Mullingar the following Sunday to face the champions of Westmeath, St Loman's.

If they were to fall on the road to St Patrick's Day, hindsight would suggest this was the most likely day, especially when Diarmuid Connolly's suspension was compounded by Ger Brennan's early red card.

"Absolutely," Golden concurs, before the 32-year-old wanders into the morass that is club fixtures, describing it as a "frustration of mine that a Dublin team would have to play so soon after the Dublin championship final – and it would have been a shame, fatigue being one of the main reasons, if we were to lose.

"It would have been very disappointing for us to go out at that stage because I think we had a huge amount more to offer.

"So I'm very thankful we got over that and I think we've pushed on very much – we showed what we were capable of in games after that a lot more."

However, finding a solution to this age-old problem remains elusive. Golden has no specific remedy, but urges action from the authorities.

"The fact that, because we went to a replay, it put us at a serious disadvantage going into our first round of Leinster is something that maybe the Dublin County Board could look at. Because you don't want your county champions being at a disadvantage going into their first round of Leinster," he maintains.

"We have no say in how the championship plays out. We just have to abide by what dates are set. But it's very challenging that you train eight months of the year and then it's like a rollercoaster, the Dublin championship, in that time frame between September and October.

"But that's the nature of it. You get a huge kick out of it then when you come through that process and you come out the other side.

"But it is a hugely challenging time, and if you are unlucky with injuries in that period ... players can miss huge chunks, two or three championship games, because they come so quick."

Golden may have been confined to the role of impact sub for much of this campaign, but his experience is still a vital element in the dressing room. A contemporary of Tomás Quinn (inset), he graduated from the same minor team as Mossy and is a survivor from the team that ended 23 years in the Dublin SFC wilderness in 2007 before going all the way to All-Ireland glory the following March. Less than half of those '08 trailblazers are still involved, but Golden is one of them and knows what to expect from the epic occasion that is next Monday in Croke Park.

He also knows what to expect from Castlebar Mitchels.

"I'm very surprised that they're underdogs for this now," Golden maintains, "because they've beaten who would have been the favourites for the championship, Dr Crokes. And they beat Brigid's, who were the reigning All-Ireland champions.

"They've a proven track record in who they've beaten; they're a formidable team who have a huge work ethic and play very well as a team.

"So we'll really have to perform to our best to put it up to them," concludes Golden.


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