Mark Poland has revealed he wanted to retire after Down’s surprise defeat to Wexford in last year’s All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
The shock result, which came hot on the heels of an Ulster championship defeat by Derry, led to the departure of Jim McCorry as manager and Poland, one of the team’s most committed servants, admits he almost quit at the age of just 29.
“Wexford was one of the worst moments I’ve had in football but it was a knee-jerk reaction of my own (to consider retiring).
“I’m passionate about my county and want to see Down do well.
“There was a lot of ill-feeling abut Down football and it was annoying me. I don’t know whether it’s thickness or wanting to prove people wrong, but if fit I’m willing to be involved as long as Down want me.”
Benny Coulter has returned, but Mark Poland accepts Down’s season could be defined by whatever decision Marty Clarke makes in the next few weeks. Clarke ended a brief two-year inter-county career in 2011 to rejoin AFL side Collingwood and has not been involved since.
He returned home from Australia over a year ago after being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease and has not yet committed to the county — though delivered a timely reminder of his ability with the round ball on Tuesday night, kicking five points in Queen’s University’s Sigerson Cup win over Maynooth.
“You hear all the rumours,” Poland said at the launch of the Allianz Football Leagues in Belfast yesterday.
“I’m from the same area as him and it seems to be a general topic of discussion around Down. I haven’t spoken to him in a while but if I thought it was worth getting on to him, I’d give him a call.”
It’s not known if new Down boss Eamonn Burns has had a conversation with Clarke, Poland would love to play alongside the 2010 All Star: “If I was a manager, I’d be on to him. Down need all the best players playing and Marty is one of the best players in Down.”
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