Marty Clarke in action for Down. He arrives in Melbourne this week. (Pic: Adrian Melia)
Collingwood Football Club has insisted that Martin Clarke’s planned holiday to Melbourne is not for the purpose of reigniting his career with the club.
The Downman is due to arrive in the Victorian city but Collingwood recruiting manager Derek Hine said that Clarke is returning Down Under to sort out his Australian finances before the end of the financial year.
However Hine, who recruited and even provided a home to Clarke when he was in Melbourne, said he will be meeting up with the Gaelic footballer during his stay.
“Martin has made no indication to us that he would like to return,” Hine said.
“Of course he’ll catch up with some of the boys for obvious reasons and of course we’ll meet for a coffee but I won’t be raising the issue (of him coming back). If he brings it up that’s fine, but I won’t be.
“Martin turns 24 next year so he’s coming into a different stage of his life. The conversation will only come up if Martin brings it up.
“We respect where he’s at and I know he respects where we’re at. We’re a different team now to the one he left. We’re going pretty well and he respects that. He’s also really matured. He’s well set up at home and really enjoying the coaching aspect of it. He’s enjoying his time there and his performances show that.”
Clarke returned to Ireland in 2009 after 46 senior games with Collingwood to play for his native Down and was instrumental in their unexpected march to the All-Ireland final last year. However they fell to an unexpected five point loss to Armagh at the weekend.
“I spoke to him last night and he was just really disappointed to lose. They had injury problems but it was a game they expected to win. I also spoke to him about Caolan (Mooney) because the (Down) minors lost as well.”
While Clarke’s future is still up in the air, Hine confirmed that Down minor Caolan Mooney will join the Pies for a training period shortly. Mooney is signed to the club for season 2012.
:: Tiger’s Irish recruit tips Clarke for return
Meanwhile Richmond Tiger’s Irish recruit Jamie O’Reilly, a former team mate of Clarke’s in Down, has tipped him to make a return to AFL in season 2012.
“The fact that he’s flying out here after a championship game, I think he will,” O’Reilly said.
The 23-year-old, who is in the second and final year of his contract with the Melbourne based Tigers thinks that the opportunity to return to professional football ranks will be too hard to turn down.
“I haven’t been talking to him and I don’t have inside information but just looking at what’s been said in the media by players and Benny Coulter it looks that way.
“Obviously everybody’s situation is different but I think that after two years with a good Down side doing his best to achieve what he can and win an All-Ireland he needs to do what he enjoys.
“If that’s playing with Down then he’ll stay there and do that but if coming back to play with Collingwood is what he wants to do and the opportunity is there…”
However O’Reilly believes that while a ‘Will he, won’t he’ saga won’t affect Clarke’s concentration or that of his team mates as they head into the qualifiers, it could overtake Down’s on-field exploits, at least in the media.
“I know from being in the inner sanctum of a team that it won’t affect the players and it won’t affect him (Clarke).
“I’ve read what Benny Coulter has said and it’s clear that whatever he does his team- mates and the coach will be fine with it, and they may even know by now.
“He could have said to them, this is the situation and I’m going to see how it goes. But outside of the team you don’t want crap in the media every day about what he’s going to do.”
:: “Three years is way too long, it would be like going back to the start for him” — Kennelly
Sydney Swans Tadhg Kennelly, who knows just what it’s like to make the decision to come back to Australia after a stint out of the game, believes that if Clarke doesn’t return for season 2012 it could be too late.
Kennelly left the Swans to return home to play his native code in 2009 and finished the season by becoming the first player ever to win a Premiership medallion and an All-Ireland medal when Kerry lifted Sam.
“Three years is way too long, it would be like going back to the start for him.
“It would take him two years to get back to the level he was at… so he’d need to come back by October, November and he probably knows that.”
While he appreciates the difficulty of the decision that has to be made, Kennelly thinks the former Pie should resume his AFL career.
“It’s a difficult situation because it’s his second year (at home) and he’s probably a bit nervous thinking can he still do it or not or has he been out of the game too long.
“A lot of it comes back to the club itself and if they want Marty back. And if they do, well then he should do it. But nobody can answer that but himself. It’s something he’s got to work through.”