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Heavy investment is the key to county success: Clarke


By John Campbell

Armagh ace Jamie Clarke believes that the leading football counties have come even more to the fore in terms of setting an example off the field as well as on it.

Clarke, who has made a close study of county set-ups across the entire island, is firmly convinced that real headway can only be achieved if the very best facilities are provided for county team squads.

While much has been made of the millions of euros that have been pumped into the Dublin set-up, Clarke believes that other counties which have invested heavily in amenities could stand to gain success in the foreseeable future.

"It is no coincidence that the leading teams right now boast enviable set-ups no matter how you look at it," stated Clarke.

"Take Mayo and Tyrone, for instance. They have set the bar in relation to overall player development with their superb Centres of Excellence, and then you look at the way the Kerry team have dominated the Minor Championship and think what a wealth of talent will be coming through at senior level shortly.

"And hardly had referee Joe McQuillan blown the final whistle in the All-Ireland final last Sunday than the pundits were already talking about Dublin making it four in a row next year."

Clarke is adamant that county boards have to be prepared to pick up the gauntlet if they hope to gain credibility let alone success for their flagship teams.

"There is a challenge out there for us all," insisted Clarke. "We in Armagh, while we got to the All-Ireland semi-finals this year, have to sit down and assess how we can make further progress next year. We have to look at where we went wrong, how we can improve things and so on.

"We are fortunate in that the Athletic Grounds is a great stadium and the venue for many high-profile games, but we need to push on as a team."

And Clarke is convinced that county boards might have to think outside the box in their desire to move with the times.

"I think counties might have to look at showing some innovation in terms of development," he added.

"They might have to look at what professional soccer teams are doing if they are to take a step towards enhancing little things that might not seem so important yet can mean much in conditioning and preparation."

"There is no doubt that the bar is continually being raised."

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