Monday 25 March 2019

Clarke fumes at physicality being phased out of football

Armagh’s Jamie Clarke was speaking at the launch of Bodibro, High Performance Sportswear. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Armagh’s Jamie Clarke was speaking at the launch of Bodibro, High Performance Sportswear. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

The increasing trend of players feigning injuries and "jumping to the ground once they get contact" is something which greatly irritates Armagh football star Jamie Clarke.

Clarke believes he fell victim to such an instance in their second round Division 2 league draw with Clare when the Crossmaglen Rangers attacker was shown red by referee Cormac Reilly for a striking offence.

As an elusive corner-forward, Clarke regularly uses his free hand to push away opposition defenders and create space but feels he fell foul to a decision which cost his side dearly.

The 29-year-old appealed his one-match suspension but was unsuccessful as he "had to try and prove the referee wrong and couldn't" so he sat out the Orchard's disappointing loss to Meath last weekend.


"It's one of those things where it's part of my game, most players throw the arm back just to fend off a man and I suppose probably being a bit naive in the modern game, he went down holding his face," Clarke said.

"I didn't hit him in the face and that's why I was appealing it. I tackled him and I was kind of like, 'Get up off the ground', because I had hit him in the chest and why I was appealing was because he went down holding his face so I was like, 'What are doing?'"

Soccer-style theatrics have slowly made their way into the GAA with Tyrone star Tiernan McCann famously pilloried for dropping dramatically to the turf when his hair was touched by Monaghan's Darren Hughes - who was red-carded - in their 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final.

Red Hand team-mate Niall Morgan similarly drew the ire of many last Sunday when falling to the ground after being struck by Roscommon's Ultan Harney - which cost the Rossies a match-winning free - and Clarke feels introducing a yellow card for simulation/diving is "possibly a way of getting rid of it".

While the exciting attacker understands and appreciates that some teams will do whatever it takes to get over the line - he describes it as "being cute" - it's not behaviour that he would ever consider himself.

Clarke also bemoans the fact that physicality is being taken out of the game with players "nearly afraid to go into certain tackles" because of the repercussions or how a referee might interpret different tackles.

"You're nearly afraid to go in for certain tackles because... even the black card now, you can get done for a black card now in the first five minutes for making a genuine effort to go for the ball," Clarke said. "You just have to be wary of it. The old-school physicality, the natural hard hitting, it's nice to be part of that when a game is in the melting pot but now you can just bang and you're gone straight away, the referee can make a decision."

Clarke - who returned to Kieran McGeeney's Armagh fold this year having plied his trade with New York last summer - believes much of the instruction to exaggerate tackles is coming from inter-county managers.

He feels managers/coaches are instructing their teams to "be cute" in order to exploit the rules while referees often don't help the situation.

"I'd say it's coming from the top down that there's that many rules changes that teams and managers are trying to adapt to the rules because most players try to play on the boundary of how to do things in a way that they can get away with.

"I'd say it's the amount of talk, the amount of change that's going on that teams and management are trying to manipulate the game. I even find trying to chat to the referees about, 'what's your reason?', very difficult, they don't want to have a conversation with you on the pitch.

"You'd like to understand what way he's going to referee the game. Some referees let it go, some don't and it's just getting that balance right for those guys across the board."

Last Saturday's epic Division 1 meeting of Kerry and Dublin was "the sort of football that people want to see" in Clarke's view with "no feigning injuries or anything like that or feigning fouls", the type of game and sensible officiating would he feels would benefit all involved.

Irish Independent

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