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Collingwood say no to prodigal Clarke

Downman Marty Clarke met Mick Malthouse last month. (File pic)

Martin Clarke is looking to return to the Australian Football League but it will not be at Collingwood, the Irish Echo has learned

The Down superstar, who left the Magpies two years ago to pursue his Gaelic football career, visited Australia in June and spoke with club officials including coach Mick Malthouse.

But the reigning premiers, who are enjoying another stellar season in the AFL, have told Clarke that he is surplus to requirements at the moment.

The news will make the task of getting back into the AFL significantly more difficult for Clarke, who would have been exempted from the draft if Collingwood had taken him back.

The new Sydney club GWS, which joins the competition in 2012, may provide a new avenue into the AFL for Clarke who, alternatively, must take his chances in the national draft.

But given his extraordinary skills and stamina, Clarke will surely find a new home in Australian Rules.

After exploding onto the AFL scene in 2007, Clarke became a mainstay of the Collingwood side. In 2009, a trip back to Ireland mid-season for a wedding prompted a longing for home and Clarke announced his retirement from Aussie Rules in September 2009.

Clarke played in last year’s All Ireland final for Down but could not replicate the success of other Irish players who have returned from Aussie Rules, like Anthony Tohill, Dermot McNichol, Brian Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly.

Down were narrowly beaten by Cork in the decider last September. Marty Clarke’s contribution to Down’s season was rewarded with an All-Star Award.

This year, the 23-year-old has again been a key player for Down, but the Mourne men’s campaign ended last weekend.

Once again it was Cork who ended Down’s season and Clarke suffered the ignominy of a red card in the match, which Down lost 2-20 to 0-14.

After the match, Clarke team-mate Danny Hughes said he was confident Clarke would return to Australia.

“I think he will go back to Australia. And the best of luck to him if he can do it. Marty is a great fella, and he has given a lot to Down football so he doesn’t owe us anything.”

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