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Martin Clarke Pretty Much Confirms Retirement From Inter-County Football

Martin Clarke Pretty Much Confirms Retirement From Inter-County Football
By Conall Cahill Updated
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It's a sad day for Down football and Gaelic football in general as it now seems certain that Martin Clarke's days of playing inter-county football are over.

Clarke, who won an Allstar in 2010 after returning from a fledgling Australian Rules career with Collingwood to nearly help Down win an All-Ireland under James McCartan, had been fairly silent on his inter-county prospects in recent times. Last summer while on punditry duty with the BBC he said "it would have been nice to get a phone call" from current Down boss Eamonn Burns, hinting that under a different manager he might consider returning to the Down fold.

But speaking on eir Sport on Saturday evening ahead of his county's 1-16 to 0-10 defeat to Fermanagh at Pairc Esler, Clarke (while naming the management change as one factor in his decision) pretty much confirmed that his days at the highest level of Gaelic football are over.

It's the start of the National League, it would be great to be out there. But you know, for a number of reasons -I was in Australia, I haven't been well with my condition, there's been a change of managers and stuff over the past few years - it's been six years since I kicked a ball for Down, and there's a lot of fresh faces trying to take the county forward, so I think my footballing days playing for Down are behind me now.

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Clarke recently lined out for Queen's University in their heavy Sigerson Cup defeat to DCU in Belfast, and was undoubtedly one of the more impressive players on the pitch, if not quite at the same level as seven years ago (though admittedly that was hard to judge, so off-form were Queen's). He returned from a second spell in Australia late in 2014 and vowed to return to the Down set-up despite suffering from Addison's Disease. However, that has never materialised (either under Jim McCorry in 2015 or Burns since).

Clarke's retirement may bring an end to the questioning about his future, but that won't stop Down fans wondering what might have been after an inter-county career only spanning two seasons at the top level.

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Then again, he did say "I think"...

SEE ALSO: Martin Clarke: Gaelic Football's Lost Genius?

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