As Dean Rock lined up what would prove to be the match-winning free, Dublin sub Costello picked up Clarke’s tee, positioned just shy of the 13-metre line, and threw it away. He then made his way to one of Clarke’s goalposts to kick away another tee, before crossing to the other post to fling away a third tee.
Clarke sent the resulting restart out over the Cusack Stand sideline, with Mayo never managing to regain possession between there and the final whistle, but the All-Star goalkeeper has insisted his poor kick-out had nothing to do with Costello’s gamesmanship.
“I didn’t hit the best kick-out, but that wasn’t anything to do with the pressure that was being put on,” Clarke revealed.
There was a man free that I was aiming for, but I didn’t get him. During the game, there were tees being thrown away, but I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it.
As well as the interference with his kicking-tees, the 34-year old had no major gripes with the pulling and dragging of Mayo men by Dublin players late in second-half stoppages. You do what you have to in order to win.
“That’s what some teams will do. We might have done the same thing if we were in the same position. I had a few tees. It’s happened in plenty of games.
“You want to win in the right way, you want to be five points up, but if you’re not, you might try something different.”
Retirement was never contemplated by Clarke during the off-season. An early goal for 2018 has been to reach the heights of the 2017 final. So far, Stephen Rochford’s charges have failed miserably.
“Obviously, I’m getting a bit older now, so you try and make the most of every year you’re around the setup and see what happens, but when I go to bed, I’m not crying myself to sleep. Maybe in a few years’ time, when you stop, you might look back a bit differently at things, but when you’re in the middle of it, you just keep on going and make the best of it.”
The Ballina Stephenites netminder added: “There’s a standard we set in that final, but in the last four months, we haven’t got near that. That’s the standard we’ve been striving towards for Galway, but if we don’t hit that standard, we have a fair idea what the result will be. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect as we didn’t win the final, but it is a standard for us to try and attain.”
Clarke’s 2017 season did finish on a positive note, as he edged out Stephen Cluxton to win a second successive All-Star award. The pair were also shortlisted for the footballer of the year award.
I didn’t foresee myself being in the mix for the player of the year award. As a fan, I see the footballers as the boys out the pitch kicking the ball over the bar and making the tackles. It’s like a sport within a sport, at times, goalkeeping.
“The brilliance of Stephen [Cluxton]; the way that he’s changed the game has brought it to new levels and changed the way goalkeeping is thought about. I’m just following on from him.
“When I started, I wasn’t kicking the way I’m kicking now and that’s probably because Stephen did it so well and other managers and teams wanted something similar.
“You either develop with that or you’re going to be left behind. It was lovely to get the All-Star award but I’m sure it was the toss of a coin,” said Clarke.