GAA Football

Aidan Carr and Mark Poland were great servants to the Down cause says former team-mate John Clarke

John Clarke feels Aidan Carr was an underrated player during his days wearing the red and black of Down. The Clonduff man called time on his inter-county career earlier this week. Picture by Colm O'Reilly
Neil Loughran

EX-DOWN forward John Clarke has paid tribute to former team-mates Mark Poland and Aidan Carr after both decided to call time on their inter-county playing days during recent weeks.

Longstone schemer Poland announced his retirement from the Mourne County last month, while Clonduff's Carr confirmed on Wednesday night that 2017 would be his last year with Down.

Their departure leaves just Kevin McKernan, Conor Maginn, Benny McArdle and Darren O'Hagan from the squad that reached the 2010 All-Ireland final, as Eamonn Burns builds a new-look Down side.

Clarke soldiered alongside Carr and Poland in red and black for several years and, although success all too often eluded them, he feels both made significant contributions to the cause.

“Aidan and Mark have been very good servants to Down football,” said Clarke.

“A bit like myself both played through some lean years and some tough times but, when it comes to footballers, very few could match those two boys in terms of ball skills.

“They were similar in a way because of the quality of their passing and composure on the ball. People say Aidan didn't play much in 2010, but only for his goal down in Tullamore that night [when Down beat Offaly in a round three Qualifier], we'd have been beat.

“That was a vital moment in that run, and I always thought Aidan was underrated. Maybe playing in the full-forward line you appreciated him more because he could pick you out with a pass from 30 or 40 yards no problem.”

Poland, meanwhile, really caught the attention during that summer.

“He came in under the radar a bit in 2010 and he burst on to the scene against Kerry.

“He was so elusive at times, and you don't get so many players like that nowadays. His presence and his ball-playing skills, his elusiveness, were a vital part of that run in 2010.

“They might not have played a whole lot last year but they'll be missed because there's a lot of experience has gone in the last few years. The leadership of boys like that at training, in the changing rooms before big games, you can't buy that.

“When that voice suddenly goes, it's asking a lot for a young lad maybe only in the panel for a year or two to step up and be that leader.”

Meanwhile, Clarke has revealed he fancies following in the footsteps of younger brother Marty by moving into coaching in the near future.

Marty Clarke, a 2010 Allstar, will be part of the Cavan U17 backroom team next year after a long-running battle with Addison's disease forced his premature retirement from football earlier this year.

The Clarke brothers will see plenty of each other next year too as Marty will be one of the coaches working alongside Benny Corrigan at St John's, Drumnaquoile – where elder sibling John is still keeping the scoreboard ticking over in the forward line.

And John insists he will have no problems taking tips or advice from his younger brother.

“Ah no, I trust him. He's had a fair bit of experience through the years and we've seen from his Australian Rules background that he's introduced a few new ideas.

“He's pretty clued and we're a young enough team, so the lads will respect him too and that's a big thing. We're hoping he can add a fresh impetus this year.

“Me and him have a good relationship as well so it's a good move for all concerned. The club's obviously delighted to have him on board.

“I'm 35 now myself and the coaching side of things is something I want to get into eventually. The older you get, the more you take into consideration different techniques used through the years, motivational techniques, wee tactical innovations… you become more aware of it whereas when you're younger it probably goes over your head a lot of the time.

“I've played under lots of good managers and coaches so hopefully I'll be able to take different pointers from them all.”

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