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Martin Clarke may disappoint Down and stay in Australia

By John Campbell

One of the best players ever to have represented Down is set to return to the county – but it may not be for long. Martin Clarke, the axis around which the team revolved when they reached the All-Ireland final in 2010, will shortly travel home from Australia where he is pursuing his career in the AFL to marry Kilkeel girl Anna O'Reilly in October.

But while there is a deep yearning on the part of Mourne fans to see the mercurial playmaker back in the famous red and black jersey again, the indications are that he may consider taking up the option of a fresh contract with the Collingwood club Down Under.

Clarke, 26, is in his second stint in the AFL having played for Collingwood from 2007-2009 before returning there in 2012 after two years spent in Down's colours.

His brother John, who retired in 2011 after giving a decade of fine service to Down, reveals that Martin has been working hard this year.

"Obviously he has been giving great commitment to Collingwood so I think it's a question of waiting to see what happens," says John.

In the meantime, John is hopeful that a new Down boss in succession to James McCartan will be named soon so that he can build on the "solid foundations" laid by the 1991 and 1994 All-Ireland winner.

"Obviously it is going to be tough for whoever comes in because the game has moved on and the top teams are setting the template for the rest of the field," states John.

"Nevertheless Down is not without its own battery of talent and in this connection I think that people like the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, and Daragh O'Hanlon among others have a lot to offer. I think that solid foundations have been laid for the new manager."

While he has stepped down from the inter-county scene, John is still a key figure in the An Riocht club side which is now managed by Ross Carr, a colleague of James McCartan in the all-conquering Down side of the early '90s.

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