Sunday 24 March 2019

Clarke happy to swap the Big Apple for return to his beloved Orchard

Jamie Clarke. Photo: Sportsfile
Jamie Clarke. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

At the end of the 2017 season, Jamie Clarke was nominated for an All-Star.

He'd just put down an excellent year as Armagh reached the last eight of the All-Ireland race - eventually going down to Tyrone - scoring a brilliantly improvised goal against Tipperary that underlined his status as one of the most exciting forwards in the game.

However, a few months later Clarke had dusted down his passport again and was on his travels, much to the disappointment of Armagh supporters.

"It was in my mind (to go) at that stage anyway at the start of that summer and I think the Tyrone game (where they lost by 18 points) was just very, very disappointing.

"But that decision wasn't really football-based, that was my own personal things going on that I wanted to solve, too.

"I faced the decision, 'do I stay and be happy when I'm at football and be unhappy for the rest of my days?'

"So Kieran (McGeeney) was just, 'go away and do what you have to do'. He was very understanding about it." 

In 2018, he played just one game of county football, helping New York to within a few seconds of a historic first win in the Connacht championship when they lost to Leitrim by a point after extra-time.

"It was very disappointing that we didn't win. We were by far the better team on the day, we were five points up at one stage. It was one of those games where we were kicking on, getting to a five-point lead, letting them back in, getting it back to five.

"Eventually we were up three in extra-time and they scored four to win it. So from that point of view it was very disappointing not to win.

"I know people were saying, 'ye were close', but we put in a lot of effort. A lot of the guys didn't maybe realise what it took or didn't really realise how good they were as well, they maybe had this kind of respect, 'well, don't do this because this is how we've always done it'.

"So it was almost trying to get them to realise that it's only 10 weeks, put in the effort and you'll see the rewards on the day. You learn a lot out there and you see how things are being managed and done, and from a New York point of view there is a huge opportunity to push on.

"But ultimately people aren't there to give that commitment and that's probably the biggest issue.

"If you can get boys who can commit full-time to the game, then fair enough but the problem is that ultimately people aren't in New York to play football." 

So he's home again and this time it's for the medium term at least.

Personal

"I've a personal project in the pipeline, I still have a big involvement in menswear fashion here.

"Myself and a guy have been working on taking our own label out so it's looking like autumn/winter this year. It's exciting. It's exclusive at the minute!"

In the meantime he'll look to help Armagh keep on an upward curve and earn a second successive promotion.

They are just two points off the lead but a defeat at home to Tipperary on Sunday would almost certainly have them looking down the table rather than up.

"Do I regret going away again? No, because I've learned different things in terms of leadership, in terms of being happy within myself, humility and I'm in a much better place for it again now.

"But ultimately it's the love of Armagh and of the game that stops me from going away and staying away."

Irish Independent

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