Tuesday 23 January 2018

Clarke ruled out of international series

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

MARTIN CLARKE will not be available for the forthcoming International Rules series against Australia as he prepares to make his return to the AFL in the coming weeks.

Ireland's preliminary squad is expected to be announced early next week -- prospective players took part in a training camp last weekend in Carton House.

The Irish team's management had left the door open to Clarke, but they are now resigned to being without the Down man.

Reports from Australia yesterday suggest that Clarke could return to Collingwood via the draft system, which takes places at the end of November.

It had been thought that new AFL club Greater Western Sydney would be Clarke's first port of call but Collingwood, who lost the Grand Final last weekend by 38 points to Geelong, are understood to be interested in re-signing him.

Clarke returned home in 2009 after three years with Collingwood, with whom he played 46 games, to pursue a teaching career and play with Down.

But it became evident during this season that he was harbouring ambitions to return to the AFL. He spent two weeks in Australia in June after Down's Ulster championship defeat to Armagh.

Tadhg Kennelly made a successful return to AFL after spending 2009 at home playing with Kerry. He has now retired from the AFL and is expected to be included in the Irish squad for the International Rules series.

Pearse Hanley is also keen to play and, like Kennelly, will stay on in Australia and link up with the Irish squad when they arrive there on Sunday, October 23.

Serious doubts are emerging over the availability of Dublin's players.

Bernard and Alan Brogan, Stephen Cluxton and Rory O'Carroll are all expected to feature on the preliminary squad but, with their clubs still involved in the Dublin championship, the expectancy is that at least some of them will have to miss the trip to Australia.

Benny Coulter, one of Ireland's most experienced players, is expected to miss out because of injury.

Kieran Donaghy and Darran O'Sullivan were in Maynooth over the weekend and, if club fixtures don't impact on them, are likely to travel.

Irish Independent

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