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'It Would Have Been Nice To Get A Phone Call' - Martin Clarke On Down Absence

'It Would Have Been Nice To Get A Phone Call' - Martin Clarke On Down Absence

On the 5th of April last year, Down beat Laois by three points in a National League game in Newry and they haven't won since.

As it can be so often, promotion to Division 1 proved a curse in disguise as Down weren't able for that level and shipped hammering after hammering. Morale would seem to be low at this point.

One is wary about pronouncing any result as marking the 'rock bottom' - calling rock bottom is, ironically, a rather optimistic thing to do - but really, Down can hardly have too much room left for disimprovement at this point.

But the events of the past year have only deepened one particular mystery - what the hell happened in the 2010 All-Ireland championship?

As in the hurling championship in 2013, in the summer of 2010 the sport of Gaelic football seemed to go on some mad hallucinogenic, one which produced highly bizarre results.

Mayo were beaten by Sligo and Longford. Dublin conceded five goals against Meath and had scored 0-3 against Wexford after 53 minutes.

Not only did the All-Ireland semi-finals contain no provincial champion, they didn't even contain a provincial finalist.

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A Division 4 team, Roscommon, won a provincial championship.

Cork eventually won the All-Ireland despite never really appearing to play well or reach the heights of previous seasons where they fell short.

And Down ran and ran all the way to the All-Ireland final, beating Kerry along the way, a Kerry team that had won three of the previous four All-Irelands.

The traditionalists revelled in Down's progress asserting the value of 'tradition' at every turn, winking knowingly at the sight of their exuberance and natural confidence around Croker.

The subsequent years have made it hard to fathom what went down in 2010. It was like some strange oasis in a dessert. If one looks closer, one would have seen the seeds lain by underage final appearances in minor and U21 in 2005.

One of Down's brightest stars from that quixotic run through the qualifiers in 2010, Martin Clarke, sat alongside Oisin McConville and Mark Sidebottom in the BBC NI studio. He remains the man most associated with Down's performance in 2010. His subsequent absence serving as metaphor for Down's absence from the top table.

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In late 2014, he was diagnosed with Addison's disease, a condition which can cause muscle disease and weight loss. He left Collingwood that year and said he intended to fight for a place in Jim McCorry's squad for 2015.

McCorry departed after a disappointing championship in 2015. Eamonn Burns was appointed manager amid no hoopla whatsoever. It has been continually reported that he took the job because no one else wanted near it.

Yesterday, ahead of the game, Oisin McConville ripped into Burns for not attempting to bring Martin Clarke into the fold.

He said that Benny Coulter had opted out and that Dan Gordon had opted out and that there wasn't much he could do about that. And he said he hadn't been talking to Martin Clarke. And I find that astounding!

You have to get your best players on the field and use them to the best of their ability. For this man (Clarke) to be sitting up here today having not been asked or approached, and I know I'm putting him in an awkward position, but I find that astounding.

Sidebottom asked Clarke.

 No, I think Eamonn has made no secret, he hasn't asked me directly. There is a lot going on with my health, and the condition that I'm managing.

However, once he came into the job, without wanting my hand held or to be treated any differently, I suppose a phone call would have been nice just to see where he's at and where I'm at.

It could have potentially shifted a few things and even if it wasn't this year, then maybe the foundations for next season, to start on that. But look, it didn't happen and we have to move on and deal with that.

Prior to the championship, the Belfast Telegraph's Declan Bogue reported Burns as saying that the Down forward line was in 'reasonably good shape' and it was 'not really a department we're lacking in at the minute'.

Down scored an average of 9.4 points per game during the League. Prior to the final game against Mayo, where they hit 1-16, they had scored 7.8 per game.

Read more: Kneejerk - Our Man On His Strange Admiration For Davy Fitzgerald

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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