belfasttelegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Jamie Clarke facing difficult McKenna Cup decision

Cup king: Jamie Clarke at the launch of the Dr McKenna Cup

BACK from another spell of travelling, Jamie Clarke is already in a quandary as to what to do in January with a choice of a team holiday with the Crossmaglen Rangers team that won two consecutive All-Ireland titles, or committing himself entirely to his first-ever full McKenna Cup campaign.

Clarke has only ever played one game in the competition, for Jordanstown against Armagh, conversely played in Crossmaglen, but it appears there is something about the freshened-up Armagh scene that appeals to him.

"I don't know how much I will be here for, I will be here for one of the games and then perhaps away on the team holiday for the Cross team that won the two All-Irelands, but I am undecided on whether I am going on that or not but I will see what happens over the next couple of weeks," the attacker said.

After the qualifiers defeat to Galway in the summer, Clarke admitted to finding life difficult when he stated: "When you are beat in a Championship game it just feels like there is nothing else, especially here. I found it really difficult when we were knocked out of the Championship so to get away was really good."

He added: "There are factors that were affecting me and stuff and that was the reason I wanted to go away. I am here now for the immediate future, I am not going away any time soon. I just thought to take a break, get back to it and give it a go."

While away, he bought a ball in New York and occasionally visited Central Park to hone his skills, but that, he admits, was the extent of his training away from home. Twitter updates on Cross gave him an itch to return.

Because of prior club commitments, it will be the first time he has faced into a full season with his county. Before, it has always been a case of picking up with Armagh while they were halfway through their league programme.

Naturally, people are curious as to the nature of Kieran McGeeney's role in the Armagh management.

"People have different perceptions of Kieran and different ideas of what he is about," Clarke explains.

"He's very honest and trustworthy. He will look after every player individually."

"We have Julie Davis who is in as strength and conditioning coach, we have great coaches on board, everything is getting looked after and it's brilliant."

Given Clarke's well-documented aversion to lifting weights, is it possible that he is falling into line and pumping iron over winter?

"I don't want to give too much away because we are a tight group. We are working towards something. There is a purpose to it."

Armagh, and Clarke, mean business in 2014.

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