Charlie Vernon open to Jamie Clarke return

Charlie Vernon says Jamie Clarke would be welcomed back “with open arms” by the Armagh players if he decides to return in 2017.

The New York-based Crossmaglen forward hinted over the weekend he is considering a move home to resume his inter-county football career having last played for Armagh in the 2015 championship.

However Vernon said if Clarke is to be involved next year, he needs to commit fully to the cause.

Speaking at last night’s draw for the Dr McKenna Cup in Belfast, Vernon said: “I don’t know for sure if he (Clarke) is coming back.

“But I know there has been contact made and he has expressed an interest in coming back. He would be welcomed with open arms by players and supporters alike.

“A player of his quality and stature is not going to be turned away, though I suppose we’d rather have him there 100% rather than dipping his toe in and out.

“It would be a great lift for everybody if he did decide to come back and throw his hat at it for the year.

“He is very committed when he is there and chooses to opt in to the panel, and for the younger players to learn off someone like him would be invaluable.”

Mickey Harte declared last night’s McKenna Cup draw as “the toughest we have ever had” after Tyrone were paired alongside fellow Division One teams Donegal and Cavan plus UUJ.

Armagh are paired with Down, Derry and Queens while Monaghan are drawn alongside Fermanagh, Antrim and St Mary’s. Tyrone will be chasing a six-in-a-row of pre-season competition wins.

“I like to be playing competitive football right up the start of the league and to do that, you have to top your group and win your semi-final,” said Harte.

“We endeavour to do that every year and it will be the same this year. But if you were trying to pull out a harder group there, you’d have trouble doing it.”

Harte hinted there will be negotiation with the colleges over the use of some of his county players.

The Tyrone boss used to prefer all his players to be available for county selection in January, but there has been more cross-over between the panels in recent seasons.

“A few things have to be decided upon but I would say at this stage that Conor (Meyler) would be going to St Mary’s,” he confirmed.

“There would be a few players that we will negotiate over and I don’t know the precise details of that just yet.”

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