Marty Clarke still haunted by Down's All-Ireland defeat to Cork

Former Down All-Star Marty Clarke has opened up about his 2010 All-Ireland final regrets, one of which he believes "could have cost us an All-Ireland".
Marty Clarke still haunted by Down's All-Ireland defeat to Cork

Martin Clarke, Down, under pressure from Cork’s Noel O’Leary during the 2010 All-Ireland SFC final. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Martin Clarke, Down, under pressure from Cork’s Noel O’Leary during the 2010 All-Ireland SFC final. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Former Down All-Star Marty Clarke has opened up about his 2010 All-Ireland final regrets, one of which he believes "could have cost us an All-Ireland".

Clarke was Down’s key man that season after returning from the AFL though admitted he was "hunted" down and well marked by Cork’s Noel O’Leary in their one-point final loss.

Clarke admitted it was a ’shock’ to be man marked by powerful O’Leary as they’d expected him to perform his usual attacking, ’rampaging’ wing-back role.

Clarke was also ’furious’ back then that club activity took place before the semi-final win over Kildare which led to captain Ambrose Rogers suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Speaking on the Load of Balls podcast, which covers the Down GAA scene, Clarke said: "As a coach, but in any sport, there’s the hunter and the hunted. Are you going to be the hunter or are you going to be the hunted? I did feel from an early stage in that game, from a personal viewpoint, that Noel O’Leary, who matched up with me...who we didn’t predict, we did not think O’Leary would have come to me because he was doing a lot of rampaging forward that year. So it was a shock when he came to me.

He just didn’t let up the whole game, he was hands-on, serious strong man, didn’t go forward at all so I couldn’t slip out the back on him.

In-form Rogers was an unused sub for the final and the episode left Clarke fuming.

"I remember personally being furious because I just didn’t see the need to do that," said Clarke of scheduling club games. "There’s no fingers being pointed here. But it was the first time Down had been in a semi-final in 16 years or whatever it was. I just felt that we had such good momentum, let’s just keep going here.

"So they played a club championship game and Ambrose did his cruciate in a game for Longstone.

"I just feel if we had Ambrose and we hadn’t played that round of championship games...because we haven’t been there since. Why did we need to play a round of club championship games, which were extremely important in their own right, but this was a year where Down had come from nowhere. We haven’t been anywhere near it since, I just didn’t get that decision at the time.

"I remember speaking to a few guys in the management team about it, saying ’I don’t agree with this’. And eventually I think that cost us. Because Ambrose’s form that year...he was the captain, you couldn’t have had a bigger blow and I just think...that’s a regret I had.

"Of course I’m not pointing fingers, I didn’t have a great final myself, but I just feel that that decision could have cost us an All-Ireland."

Clarke, whose GAA career was cut short by Addison’s Disease, said that as a coach now he realises they could have handled O’Leary differently.

"The Aussies are really good at that, really, really good at that," the former Collingwood star explained.

"If you have a guy who is getting marked out of the game, or who is struggling to have their usual influence, they’ll do two things; they’ll send a lot of players around to the likes of O’Leary, I’m not saying you can’t fight your own court, but they’ll get other lads to bunch into him, pull him back whatever it is. You do see the best teams are doing that in GAA now, they’re trying to free up their asset.

"The other one is go and stick them in defence. Just say you have a top player who is not getting a sniff around the forward line, throw him in the centre half-back region, let him get his hands on a few cheap ones, put the defender out of his comfort zone."

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