Clarke ready to make Down return despite health 'worries'
Marty Clarke admits he would jump at the opportunity to join the 2016 Down squad despite "worries" over his ability to adapt to the demands of Gaelic football.
The 2010 All-Star didn't feature for the Mourne men this year after suffering from Addison's Disease, an ongoing condition which causes extreme fatigue and weight loss, but he is now back in the shop window.
A full season with his club An Riocht and college football with Queen's, where he is undertaking a sports and health degree, has left him ready to return if called upon by new boss Eamonn Burns.
"I haven't heard from Eamonn Burns," Clarke said. "I know he's sorting his squad out but I'm definitely open to going back. I know guys like Benny Coulter and Dan Gordon have been asked to take a back seat until March.
"I don't think I'm in that calibre of player, those guys have a lot more mileage under their belt than me but if I'm asked, I'll be straight there.
"They know I'm with Queen's at the minute and I've got that commitment there and they're probably happy with that level and playing games right now."
News of Clarke's availability will be greeted with delight in Down but the rigorous training intensity does give the brilliant playmaker food for thought.
"There are good days and bad days," he said. "I felt that I was doing really well and then about six weeks ago I got a bad bout of food poisoning and I was rushed into hospital with it.
"It set me back about three weeks and I lost about six kilos so I always have to be careful with it. Sometimes I feel great after games, other times not so great.
"It's unbelievable the quantity of training going on and, for me, it's too much. I think less is more and this five/six nights a week is far too much and it would be a worry for me."
Clarke believes an Ulster title is well within their grasp next year, especially with the aid of Division 1 football.
"If you look at the provincial winners and the All-Ireland semi-finalists this year, they were all playing Division 1 football. You have to be there" he said.
"We haven't won an Ulster title since 1994 and that has to be a target. It would be massive for Down and we're certainly well capable of it."