GAA Football

Former Down star Marty Clarke decides to walk away from Gaelic football after warning from medical experts

Former Down star Marty Clarke has decided to follow medical advice and call time on his playing days at the age of just 29. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

AFTER a career that included hitting the heights Down Under before returning to shine in his native county’s run to the 2010 All-Ireland final, Marty Clarke has decided to bring an end to his playing days at the age of just 29.

In an exclusive interview over the next two days, the former Down playmaker reveals that he has been advised by medical experts to stop playing competitive sport at all levels.

Three years ago Clarke was diagnosed with the extremely rare Addison’s disease, a condition which affects only one in every 100,000 people.

At the time, he was still on the books of Aussie Rules heavyweights Collingwood, having returned for a second spell in 2011 following a hugely successful stint with the Magpies from 2007-’09.

Clarke returned to Ireland in November 2014, just months after being diagnosed with Addison’s, and Down fans hoped it wouldn’t be long before he was pulling on the red and black jersey again.

However, it never happened - and now it never will.

Queen’s University’s heavy Sigerson Cup defeat to Dublin City University (DCU) might not be the way Clarke would have wanted to end his playing days, but it is beyond his control.

Having spoken to a consultant in the weeks after that game, Clarke last week informed team-mates at his club An Riocht that, on medical advice, he had decided to bring the curtain down on a distinguished career.

“I made the decision because of the stress it’s putting me under,” said Clarke, who won an Allstar for his role in Down’s All-Ireland run seven years ago.

“The dynamic nature of Gaelic where you’re running, you’re jumping, I was putting my body under a lot of stress.

“I just felt completely zapped from the start of the game to the finish. When I got home it was taking me longer and longer to recover.

“I went and got a bit of advice from the consultant and he recommended I stop competitive sport.”

“It probably hasn’t sunk in totally but I know in my heart, the way I was feeling after a lot of football games for club and Queens, that it’s not safe and I’m not doing myself justice probably

“The Kingdom have been first class and it was pretty emotional telling the fellas.”

As he got to grips with Addison’s, Clarke did put in some superb performances for An Riocht last year, playing a key role as the Kilkeel club reached the county intermediate final and secured promotion back to the top flight.

With his performances continuing to catch the eye there were calls for Mourne county boss Eamonn Burns to draft Clarke back into the county panel, something the 2005 All-Ireland minor winner would have been open to earlier in the year.

The call never came and Clarke actually ended up playing for Queen’s against Down during January’s Dr McKenna Cup before eventually signalling the end of his playing days.

“I had good days last summer with the Kingdom where I did feel very good,” he added.

“After the Sigerson, we lost heavily to DCU and I knew myself I had put in a lot of effort over the McKenna Cup in preparation for Sigerson. I should’ve been at peak fitness but I was just feeling the opposite.

“I knew the way I was feeling on the field and now being a father and planning a future with Anna, I don’t want something to happen on the pitch after I’ve been told ‘look, you’re putting your body under a lot of stress here’.”

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