Clarke in no hurry to rejoin Armagh
While he might be back for however long Crossmaglen are in the hunt for All-Ireland honours, Jamie Clarke has given Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney no encouragement that he will stay around for the Orchard County's assault on Division Two in 2016.
The talented attacker returned in recent weeks from another spell of travelling and came off the bench in Crossmaglen's Ulster semi-final against Kilcoo and final success over Scotstown to great effect as the Rangers landed their 11th provincial crown, maintaining their 100 per cent record in Ulster finals.
Asked if he will stay around for the winter and the All-Ireland semi-final in mid-February against Castlebar, the 26-year-old replied: "Yes, I'm committed to Cross until the end of the year for definite, to the end of the All-Ireland campaign. I'll take it from there."
However, he maintains that he has not thought his Armagh future through.
"It's in the pipeline, I don't want to rush into anything yet," he explained.
"It has been a tough year and from my own point of view, I think of my own future as well away from football. It's difficult to balance football and work at the moment.
"There is a lot to think about but ultimately it's very difficult to leave the football behind. It pulls at the heart strings at times. At the minute, I'm playing it by ear and I don't want to make any rash decisions."
Crossmaglen's involvement in the All-Ireland series leaves McGeeney suffering the fate of previous Armagh managers.
While he may wish Cross well in their pursuit of a seventh All-Ireland title, it leaves him planning without a number of key players.
Last year, Paul Hughes, Clarke, Tony Kernan and James Morgan all played league football with Armagh. This year, the Dr McKenna Cup and the opening two rounds of the National League against Meath and Laois will have already been played before McGeeney can re-integrate his Cross players ahead of the visit of Fermanagh on February 27.
Should Cross get to their eighth All-Ireland club final on St Patrick's Day, games against Cavan and Galway will also have passed, leaving just the visit to Tyrone and the final home fixture against Derry as games to get the balance right.
Since arriving as a talent in the 2010 Championship, Clarke has had a patchy record in the National League. In 2011 he played just two games while in 2012 he only featured in the final clash against Donegal.
He made two starting appearances in 2013, while 2014 was his only league campaign as an ever-present.
Last year, he made four starting appearances and came on as a substitute in one other game in McGeeney's first year as manager.
Perhaps the level of commitment, with its early-morning gym sessions, recovery sessions and entire weekend training camps is a root cause of Clarke's reluctance to commit at this point.
Asked if he is enjoying his football, Clarke said: "I definitely am, and especially under the two boys (Oisin McConville and John McEntee), because all we do is play football.
"They are a brilliant bunch of lads and especially with Oisin and John in, I have won an All-Ireland with them now and for those guys to manage me and this bunch of players, you know we're on a great stepping stone towards another All-Ireland now.
"Being away over the summer I knew I was going to miss part of the county (Championship) and I was thinking of the bigger picture as well, down the line."
Meanwhile, Aaron Kernan confirmed yesterday that he visited Craigavon Hospital after the Ulster club final to get an X-ray on his hand that had swollen up, and that it was not for a head injury.
"The outside of the left hand became swollen," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"But I got the X-ray in Craigavon was all clear so I presume there was just a wee bit of ligament damage, is all. It's nothing too serious."