Big Apple sweet for Armagh stalwart Clarke

Jamie Clarke says he has no plans to return and resume his Armagh career and that he sees his immediate future in New York.

The 28-year-old was devastated when New York were pipped by Leitrim in the Connacht SFC on Sunday, but his intention is to stay in the Big Apple and he could be available for them again next year.

The news will be a big blow to his club Crossmaglen Rangers and Armagh fans, with Clarke on Sunday displaying some of the awesome touches that the Orchard County will miss this summer.

He was one of the last players to emerge from the New York dressingroom on Sunday evening after they were pipped in extra-time by Leitrim (0-19 to 1-15). 

Nearly two hours passed by the time a dejected Clarke emerged after digesting just how close New York had come to their first ever win in 20 years of trying in the Connacht championship.

“It is devastating, to be honest. We gathered here in December, we have players from all over the country, and I think when we got together we set out our stall on what we really wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve as a team.

“It goes beyond this game, but I think a lot of the boys did themselves proud. We had a couple of American kids playing, as well.

“But I’m more than disappointed, because as the so-called marquee forward, I missed several opportunities and probably should have won the game. I got a few chances, but when you play at the top level, you’re expected to nail them,” he said.

Clarke said the biggest obstacle New York face is the lack of game-time and he is hopeful the GAA can come up with some way which will give them more competitive matches and allow them to develop.

“I think the big thing was, when we went there six or seven points up, we just hadn’t enough games in terms of our game management and that’s what we were lacking, probably.

We had our chances and, fair dues to Leitrim, they managed to dig it out in the end. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due and they kept fighting when their backs were against the wall. If we had have gotten through, I think it was a semi-final against Roscommon and then whatever happened we had another game after that. We just need games.

Clarke is pursuing a number of career options in New York, including working in fashion, while he is also coaching underage players in the city. His plan is to remain in New York, continue to play football and pursue a variety of career options.

“That’s the plan. My plan is to be here, but it’s visa dependent. I have other options, career wise. I’m involved in a few things. I’m involved in fashion out here. I’m working for one of the managers, as well, and just trying to get a few extra pounds together. 

"It’s a great lifestyle. I’ll stay around this summer and help out with the U14, U16 and U21 sides and, obviously, share my knowledge and try and improve things.

“It’s great out here and, ultimately, I’m a championship footballer and to lose is devastating,” he added.

Clarke will, of course, keep a close eye on Armagh’s progress this summer and said he would love to play in the Super 8s.

“Armagh look to be in great shape and I’m excited for them. They’ve lost a lot of players and it’s not easy on them, particularly myself, but these decisions have to be made in life.

"It wasn’t easy, but hopefully Armagh can get there (Super 8s) and it will be brilliant for the county, because it would be another big step in the right direction for Armagh.”

New York manager Justin O’Halloran hopes Clarke will remain in the Big Apple and play for them in next year’s championship when Mayo will make the trip to Gaelic Park.

“He’s a brilliant lad. Obviously, he is a great footballer but he is also a great teammate and a great role model. He pushes everyone on, tries to get them to be the best they can. 

"We think he is supposed to be staying around and we just hope that he does.”

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