Clarke’s looking to build on super-sub role for Down
The shrewd deployment of substitutes by managers has been one of the features of the Ulster senior football Championship to date.
When Down were seeking a healthier return in terms of winning break ball in the second-half against Donegal on Sunday, team boss James McCartan summoned Conor Maginn from the bench to add more bite to the central area.
Hardly had the player become accustomed to the pace of the action than he robbed Donegal’s Neil Gallagher of possession to set in train the move that culminated in Benny Coulter blazing home the 86th minute goal that set the seal on Down’s victory.
And when Antrim were experiencing difficulties on Sunday week last against Tyrone, Liam Bradley lost no time in dispatching C J McGourty into the action.
The upshot was that the St Gall’s clubman kept the Red Hands defence at full stretch for the most part and scored four fine points to add considerable gloss to Antrim’s overall performance.
But arguably the most explosive impact made by a substitute came in the Derry v Armagh preliminary round tie at Celtic Park.
With the game poised on a knife-edge, Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke decided to enlist the aid of 19-year-old Jamie Clarke, sending the youngster into his attack for his first taste of Championship action at a time when Derry looked poised to pose additional problems for their visitors even though they had lost Eoin Bradley to a yellow card.
With just his second touch of the ball, Clarke (pictured) coolly drilled in the goal that effectively set the scene for next Sunday’s quarter-final tie between the Orchard County and Monaghan at Casement Park.
It was Stevie McDonnell who set Clarke away against Derry when his exquisite 50-metre pass left the youngster one-on-one with Oak Leaf’s Barry Gillis and in an instant the net was rippling.
Yet while he can still savour the moment Clarke is much more focussed on being afforded the opportunity to create an even bigger impact against Monaghan this weekend.
“I was very happy with the way I finished that chance against Derry but it has only whetted my appetite for more action and hopefully more scores,” says Clarke. “We knew we needed scores of some sort at that stage so I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”