Among the best sports podcasts in Ireland these days is Alan O'Mara's Real Talks: a weekly, long-form interview podcast with high-profile figures from the GAA. This week's guest is Jamie Clarke of Armagh and Crossmaglen.
Clarke missed the Championship last year to travel the United States, where he played some ball with a Longford GAA side. Clarke, however, also played some soccer, with Clarke talking at length about that experience:
I was playing a lot of soccer. I played a lot of street soccer growing up, and I played with Dundalk for a bit. Obviously, with the Gaelic, I couldn't really play both, so it was an opportunity to really give it a lash, so I really enjoyed it over there. I met people from all over the world, and one of the midfielders played in Paul Scholes' testimonial at Old Trafford. Our centre-half was the captain of Port Vale, played in the FA Cup, so we had plenty a good team, and the standard was quite high.
It was a great experience, meeting people from all over the world. There was that drive, because you were part of that sports circle, and it did keep me fit. I loved it, and still love the soccer.
The fact that Clarke was playing soccer in the States made headlines on this side of the Atlantic, with the Irish News reporting in August that Clarke had been training with MLS side New York Red Bulls, and was hoping to earn a contract with the club.
These reports were raised by O'Mara, and Clarke revealed how close he came to pursuing a full-time contract with the club.
I think that [the reports] came from the fact that Kevin Grogan, who was our coach, was on United's books when he was younger. He had a bad injury, that ruled him out. But he had great contacts over there: he works a lot with David Villa on his soccer schools, so Kevin has been known to put people through and take them up to the next level. So the option was there for me, if I wanted to chase it.
But deep down, I was just honest with him. Deep down I don't love it like I love Gaelic. I want to be back playing on the big stage at home.
You can listen to the full interview here.