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Clarke hints he will reject Aussie overtures

MARTY CLARKE has given the strongest indication yet that he will resist the overtures of his former Aussie Rules employers and stick around with the Down footballers next season.

Asked if he would be part of Down's challenge next year, Clarke gave an emphatic "no doubt" response.

Still, it appears that Collingwood haven't given up the ghost on their former star import, who played 46 Premiership games for the club before returning home last September.

"Marty's got a lot of friends at Collingwood and he is hugely respected by everyone connected with our club," explained Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert. "The door is open for him, but it's got to be Marty's decision and we are not going to pressure him.

"I'm sure some of the Collingwood players involved in the International Rules will make contact with Marty in Ireland next month, but nobody will put him on the spot.

"If Marty indicated that he wanted to come back to the AFL, we would want him to return to Collingwood and would make his return as easy as possible."

However, Clarke now seems determined to help ensure Down can build on this year's surprise run to an All-Ireland final, where they suffered a one-point defeat to Cork having led by five at one stage.

"At the start of this year nobody really believed we could do anything, but now everyone believes," the An Riocht clubman said.

"Maybe this motivation can take us there and win an Ulster championship first -- that would be very important to us."