Saturday 10 December 2016

Clarke poised to end 'exile' and make his Armagh return

Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30

The Crossmaglen clubman moved to New York earlier this year, thus ruling himself out of the Orchard’s 2016 campaign. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
The Crossmaglen clubman moved to New York earlier this year, thus ruling himself out of the Orchard’s 2016 campaign. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

Armagh star Jamie Clarke has hinted he could be ready for a return to the inter-county arena next year.

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The Crossmaglen clubman moved to New York earlier this year, thus ruling himself out of the Orchard's 2016 campaign.

However, he posted a photo of himself in an Armagh jersey on social media along with the caption 'I'm ready', fuelling suggestions he is set for a return to the county panel for the new season. Clarke's return would constitute a major boost for the Ulster men who have struggled of late.

However, it's understood he has played little football since his move stateside last summer.

He wasn't part of the New York team that almost sensationally dumped Roscommon out of the Connacht Championship while he also missed out as Crossmaglen suffered only their second defeat in the Armagh championship in 20 years when going down to Cullyhanna at the semi-final stage.

He has, however, played soccer in New York, and recently signed for Big Apple-based side Shamrocks who operate in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League - effectively the top amateur league in the US.

That move came after he had been linked with a trial with Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls, a story that was subsequently rubbished by Clarke.

Ever since his championship debut back in 2010, Clarke has been widely regarded as one of the most naturally talented forwards around and he was sorely missed as Armagh struggled for traction in the 2016 campaign. They were relegated to Division 3 on the final day of the league and made no impact in the championship.

The 2002 All-Ireland winners went down to Cavan in Ulster and then were dumped out of the first hurdle in the Qualifiers. Armagh lost to Laois before a refixture was ordered after the O'Moore men used too many subs.

The Orchard men would also lose the replay. Clarke hasn't played for Armagh since their Qualifier defeat to Galway in 2015 but McGeeney made clear in an interview earlier this year that he'd like to work with the forward.

"I have a lot of time for Jamie Clarke but he likes to travel and try different things but the GAA calendar doesn't allow for that with no close season and he plays with a strong club. So if you put that in with Armagh it doesn't give him a chance to do what he wants to do."

Neither Clarke nor McGeeney could be reached for comment yesterday.

Over three months after John Brudair resigned his post as Limerick senior football manager, Billy Lee has been ratified as his successor, filling the last senior inter-county managerial vacancy.

Lee will be joined by Cork All-Ireland winner Paudie Kissane as football coach, with former Limerick captain Barry Fitzpatrick looking after strength and conditioning and former dual star Brian Begley and Ricky Ronayne acting as selectors.

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