Poacher previously coached Down’s U21s though the PE teacher in Kilkeel has carved out a national profile for himself as the coaching brains behind Carlow’s revival.
Turlough O’Brien’s team enjoyed a lengthy 2017 championship, achieved promotion to Division 3 this season and then beat Louth in their Leinster opener, setting up Sunday’s date with Kildare.
Down will be involved in the Ulster Championship on Saturday evening when they host Antrim and Clarke reckons they could really do with Poacher’s input.
The sooner he gets into Down the sooner I think Down will consistently perform,” said Clarke.
“Down won games last year, which was brilliant, but they couldn’t go out and repeat it against Monaghan because it was more about the who did it rather than the how they did it. Kevin McKernan stood up and had a great game the first day (against Monaghan), every man playing in Armagh that night battled and it was an amazing performance but you can’t sustain that every single game.
“Like, we know how good Dublin are because the system they play, how everyone is tuned into it.
“They’re winning games in the league with 10 guys out because they’re playing a certain way, it doesn’t matter who is in there. I think Poacher could bring that if he had a real shrewd manager in with him, and maybe the likes of Benny Coulter in the backroom team. That’s what I’d like to see and that’s no disrespect to the current management team.”
Clarke himself was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease during his second Australian Rules stint with Collingwood and returned to Ireland in 2014 but didn’t feature for his county again.
He isn’t playing at any level this year and has turned to coaching with the St John’s club and the Cavan U20 side.
It was confirmed in March that he’s also begun a new role mentoring young Gaelic footballers who have been identified as Aussie Rules prospects.
Clarke acknowledged it’s a divisive issue but said he isn’t at all conflicted about helping players potentially move Down Under.
Maybe there’s bits and pieces of people saying stuff but I have a clear conscience about the whole thing,” said Clarke, who reckons GAA clubs and counties ultimately stand to benefit.
“I don’t have the statistics off hand, the AFL guy had them for me, but I think there’s been 52 Irish guys that have gone over since Jim Stynes in 1984, that’s 0.0001% of boys aged 16-20 who have played GAA, who are club members.
“Of the 52, I think 86% have come back within three years and played for their county. You think of guys at the minute like Brendan Murphy, I know he’s gone for the summer, but himself, Michael Quinn in Longford, Caolan Mooney, Daniel Flynn, lads are coming back as better players armed with knowledge of a professional environment. And they’re putting that back in. Caolan Mooney took his club to an Ulster Championship this year in intermediate. It’s very rare that a Zach Tuohy goes over and plays 150 games and his club, Portlaoise, lose him for his whole career, and he’s still talking about coming back at some stage.
I know it’s hard for a club to accept, and a county to accept, that we’re losing this guy but the statistics suggest that he will come back a better player.
Clarke was the star of the Down team that came up just short of Cork in the 2010 All-Ireland final and said it’s disappointing how far back they’ve fallen since.
“We’ll find out a bit more about them on Saturday evening,” said the An Ríocht man. “People say Down had an unbelievable year last year — they had two wins. Fair enough, they were against good opposition in Armagh and a very good team in Monaghan. But two wins, in Down that shouldn’t get you too excited. It just shows how far we’ve dropped down and how far we have to go again.”