Clarke focused on Donegal showdown but AFL return not out of question
DOWN star Martin Clarke has revealed he would consider a return to the AFL but, for now, remains focused on his long-awaited championship debut for the Mourne men against Donegal on Sunday week.
The An Riocht man has been the centre of attention since his return from AFL side Collingwood and he has lived up to his huge billing as he played a key role in helping Down to win promotion to Division 1.
"When I left Collingwood, I had great relations there," said Clarke, at the launch of the ESB's 'Exam Pass' website, which is aimed at helping inter-county minor players get through their exams.
"It was a tough decision to come back, but I'm delighted I made that decision. But I suppose I couldn't sit here and say I definitely wouldn't go back at some stage."
Clarke caused a stir in the AFL when making Collingwood's senior team roster less than 12 months after moving Down Under, but he admits that he never completely forgot about Gaelic football during his time in Australia.
"I never really left the round ball to be honest. Me and (Armagh's) Kevin Dyas -- hopefully this doesn't get out in Australia -- would be having kicks in his garden and we broke a fair few windows," he said.
"We never left the round ball behind, we'd always have one or two with us. There were a few other Irish boys too like Colm Begley and we'd always go to the park for a kick, so I suppose I didn't really suffer in that respect."
Clarke returned to Down despite having a three-year contract offer on the table from the Magpies and revealed that loss of form in the oval ball game, and not injury, was part of his reason for returning home.
"I was never really dogged by injury. I think that was just the media bailing me out a bit. My form just dropped a bit. My first year was brilliant. We had a great team and we got to the final and I was playing well," he said.
"I had a reasonably good year the next year. I played 22 games out of 24, but then last year my form did dip and I was deservedly dropped.
"I never really recovered from it and that was part of the reason I came back."
And while a career in the AFL remains in the back of his mind, the 22-year-old coaching officer just wants to concentrate on helping the Mourne men beat Donegal.
"All I'm thinking about at the minute is Down and the first championship game for Down. That's the only place I want to be."