Monday 22 January 2018

Barden among greatest players to miss out on All Star after adorning game over three decades

'Paul Barden becomes the latest candidate for a place on a team made up of the best footballers never to win an All-Ireland medal.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
'Paul Barden becomes the latest candidate for a place on a team made up of the best footballers never to win an All-Ireland medal.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Not weak in the ordinary sense but, unfortunately, no longer able to withstand the rigours of another inter-county season.

And so Paul Barden becomes the latest candidate for a place on a team made up of the best footballers never to win an All-Ireland medal.

I interviewed him last month at a time when he was still unsure over whether he could continue for what would have been his 17th championship season.

He had an operation on an Achilles tendon in December, and while it was evident that he would love to return to the Longford camp, he knew that the odds were mounting against him.

Barden wasn't interesting in returning unless he could give 100pc and, with various injuries having taken their toll, he has now decided to leave the county scene. He will continue to play with his club, Clonguish.

He played 52 championship games with Longford (19 wins, 3 draws, 30 defeats) since making his debut against Wexford in 1999.

His only inter-county title successes came in the 2000 O'Byrne Cup, Division 4 in 2011 and Division 3 a year later.

Twice nominated for an All Star award, the Longord man never landed the big prize, a clear indictment of a system which militates so heavily against bootballers from the less successful counties.

Dozens of much less talented players have won All Star awards but since Longford's season never took them to Croke Park in late July/ August/September, Barden was out of sight at the business end of the season and, consequently, out of mind when it came to making the selection.

If ever proof were needed that the All Star system needs an overhaul, Barden's omission reinforces it.

Still, nothing can take away from the reality that he adorned the game he loved in three different decades.

That's quite an achievement.

 

Clerkin now last football link with the 1990s

Paul Barden's retirement breaks the final link with footballers who made their championship debuts in the 1990s.

Before the winter, Barden, Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill and John Galvin of Limerick were all part of an elite group that made their championship debuts in 1999. O'Neill and Galvin retired over the close season before Barden followed them on that path yesterday.

That means Dick Clerkin is the last link with the 1990s as he made his first appearance for Monaghan in the league in late 1999 although he did not feature in championship until the following summer. The Currin man is in his 16th season and started in Monaghan's league win against Tyrone last Saturday night.

After Clerkin, Dublin's Stephen Cluxton, who made his bow in 2001, is next on the list. Only one hurler, Henry Shefflin, made his debut in the 1990s and he won't decide whether to carry on with the Cats until after Ballyhale Shamrock's run in the All-Ireland club campaign comes to an end.

Donnchadh Boyle

Irish Independent

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