Jamie Clarke fears Gaelic football will suffer from a player drop-off if it doesn’t move towards professionalism in the near future.

Clarke says too much time and effort is being invested by footballers and hurlers at the minute to justify what they receive in return in the form of mileage, meals and Government grant.

The 26-year-old is unavailable for Armagh for Sunday’s Ulster quarter-final against Cavan after opting out for the season as he plans staying in the US until the end of 2017 furthering his career prospects in the fashion industry.

Speaking to The Irish Examiner as part of an extensive interview in tomorrow’s Weekend Sports, Clarke says players are recognising they are investing too much of their lives without monetary reward. “I want the game to get better and to evolve into a professional game where players get paid and we’re playing in bigger stadiums.

“Even if it’s not me but in 10 years’ time and I’ve a son coming through I don’t want him playing another sport. Gaelic football will get left behind because at the minute there are too many demands. More and more players are realising it’s not sustainable long term. I would love to see the game move towards professionalism. It’s got to the stage now where teams are literally doing anything to win and there is so much at stake and the effort is so big that they don’t want to lose.”

Clarke has already been in Paris twice this year and recently returned from a spell in Australia. Early next month, he will begin an 18-month J1 programme course in New York.His decision to take an indefinite break from football was not something he took lightly but he has to be pragmatic about his working future.

“(Armagh manager) Kieran McGeeney would have spoken to me about being proud of Gaelic football and I am proud of. It’s what I have grown up loving and playing but I’ve got to the age now where I’m thinking if I’m 32 and still doing this it’s going to be difficult to sustain a living.

“The game has transformed that much it’s added an elite level and you just can’t afford to be putting in the extra work off the field. If you look at the elite players, they all have their extra bit on the side money-wise but they’re not actually stressed out with what they’re doing. I was reading about the Brogans and what they’re doing with hotels. For myself, I just see there are bigger opportunities out there and I think I want to prove to myself there is more to me as well than sport.

“Obviously, there was a stage in sport when I wanted to be number one. But if you look at the bigger picture, what does it all mean? It’s an amateur sport at the end of the day. What’s it going to mean long term?”

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