GAA Football

Marty Clarke urges Down to catch Steven Poacher as soon as they can

Former Down footballer, Marty Clarke, right, and current Kerry footballer, David Moran were in Dublin for the reveal and official launch of the Benetti Menswear GAA Ambassador campaign for 2018. Both players are just two of a host of the top intercounty hurlers and footballers who will be representing Benetti for the GAA championship season. Benetti are an Irish designed menswear clothing brand who supply a fully comprehensive collection in tailoring, casual menswear, footwear and accessories. For further information about Benetti and their new brand ambassador campaign log on to Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Paul Keane

FORMER Allstar footballer Marty Clarke has described Steven Poacher as a rare coaching talent and urged county officials from his native Down to draft him in whenever he becomes available.

Poacher is head of PE at St Columban’s, Kilkeel and has been widely hailed for his work behind the scenes with Carlow who secured a historic promotion this year.

Clarke clarified that he’s not criticising the current Down management but said Poacher has all the qualities required by the county and should be snapped up when available.

The former Australian Rules professional went so far as to describe Poacher, who has trained Down’s U21s in the past, as the best coach he has come across, in Ireland or Australia.

Down are in Championship action on Saturday evening against Antrim, while Poacher will be on the line in Tullamore a day later when Carlow play Kildare in Leinster.

“He’s an extrovert, definitely, he’s got such high energy, I don’t know how he does it, he’s constantly in a really buzzing mood,” said Clarke.

“For my degree, I had a placement last year, about eight or nine weeks, and I went down to him in the school in Kilkeel and every morning it was the same thing (from Poacher), ‘You want to hear what happened at training last night!’ You’re just bracing yourself for it, he’s an unbelievable character.

“I have no doubt he will get a job in a top club or county in Ulster at some stage. Right now, he’s loving Carlow, he loves his role there and he’s very invested in it.

“The sooner he gets into Down the sooner I think Down will consistently perform. Down won games last year, which was brilliant, but they couldn’t go out and repeat it against Monaghan because it was more about the who did it rather than the how they did it.

“McKernan stood up and had a great game the first day, every man playing in Armagh that night battled and it was an amazing performance but you can’t sustain that every single game.

“Like, we know how good Dublin are because the system they play, how everyone is tuned into it. They’re winning games in the league with 10 guys out because they’re playing a certain way, it doesn’t matter who is in there.

“I think Poacher could bring that if he had a real shrewd manager in with him, and maybe the likes of Benny Coulter in the backroom team. That’s what I’d like to see and that’s no disrespect to the current management team, we’re just talking about the future, you’ve asked me about Poacher rather than Down.”

Clarke himself was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease during his second AFL stint with Collingwood and returned to Ireland in 2014 but didn’t feature for his county again.

He isn’t playing at any level this year and has turned to coaching with the St John’s club and the Cavan U-20s.

It was confirmed in March that he’s also begun a new role mentoring young Gaelic footballers who have been identified as Aussie Rules prospects. Clarke acknowledged that it’s a divisive issue but said he isn’t at all conflicted about helping players potentially move Down Under.

“Maybe there’s bits and pieces of people saying stuff but I have a clear conscience about the whole thing,” said Clarke, who reckons GAA clubs and county ultimately stand to benefit.

“I don’t have the statistics off hand, the AFL guy had them for me, but I think there’s been 52 Irish guys that have gone over since Jim Stynes in 1984, that’s 0.0001 per cent of boys aged 16-20 who have played GAA, who are club members.

“Of the 52, I think 86 per cent have come back within three years and played for their county. You think of guys at the minute like Brendan Murphy, I know he’s gone for the summer, but himself, Michael Quinn in Longford, Caolan Mooney, Daniel Flynn, lads are coming back as better players armed with knowledge of a professional environment.

“And they’re putting that back in. Caolan Mooney took his club to an Ulster championship this year in intermediate. It’s very rare that a Zach Tuohy goes over and plays 150 games and his club, Portlaoise, lose him for his whole career, and he’s still talking about coming back at some stage.

“I know it’s hard for a club to accept, and a county to accept, that we’re losing this guy but the statistics suggest that he will come back a better player.”

Marty Clarke was speaking at the official launch of the Benetti Menswear GAA Ambassador campaign for 2018. Benetti are an Irish designed menswear clothing brand who supply a fully comprehensive collection in tailoring, casual menswear, footwear and accessories.


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