Former Armagh senior football team manager Paul Grimley says that All-Star nominee Jamie Clarke will be a huge loss to the Orchard County next year, writes Jackie Cahill.
It has been reported by the Gaelic Life newspaper that ace forward Clarke, 28, is planning to travel long-term again and he was absent for last weekend’s Armagh SFC semi-final when his club Crossmaglen Rangers lost out to Maghery.
But it is now understood that Clarke has informed Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney that he will not be around in 2018 – and Grimley admits that it’s “disappointing” news.
Grimley, who was McGeeney’s predecessor in the Armagh role, said: “Jamie is an absolutely great lad. I always had plenty of time for him, still do.
“But he has a different outlook on life in general, as opposed to your run of the mill county player.
“He can’t be lambasted for that – that’s his own choice and good luck to him.
“In fairness to him, there are a lot of lads taking the same option, taking a year out to travel or whatever it may be. He’s searching for something else in life – and I hope he finds it.”
Clarke returned from New York to play a starring role for Armagh as they progressed to an All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Tyrone in the summer.
But as McGeeney looks to build on that progress, he looks set to be without his mercurial forward star.
And Grimley reflected: “I would probably say that was his best season in an Armagh shirt, the season just past.
“There’s no doubt about it – he’s a major loss to the team.
“I thought that particularly this year, him and Andrew Murnin were playing very well together.
“If you look at even the start of the championship, some of the ball that Jamie was putting in was structured for Andrew.
“And I think they were starting to have a good partnership, which makes it even more disappointing.”
But Grimley has backed his former selector McGeeney to “adapt” to Clarke’s anticipated absence, adding: “Whenever you get news like that as a manager, it’s disappointing but the truth of the matter is that you have to accept that’s the lad’s decision and move on.
“For it to happen at any time is not great news but it’s better it happens now in the month of October, when Kieran has three or four months to adapt, and he will adapt.
“Other players will step up and come to the fore. There’s a lot of young talent in the county and he’ll bring them through in the next two or three seasons.
“They are there and that’s what he’ll be concentrating on.
“While playing in Division 3 is not the greatest place to be in preparation for a bid for an Ulster title, it does give you a wee bit of leverage to blood younger players. That’s what he’ll be thinking.”