Marty Clarke targeting 2016 return to Down as treatment for disease takes effect

Former All Star Marty Clarke is targeting his Down return in 2016 with a tunnel vision despite struggling to climb his own stairs just months ago.

The 2010 championship revelation completed a second stint in Australian Rules football last year before returning home though a diagnosis of Addison’s disease in July complicated matters.

The talented 27-year old refused to blame his AFL difficulties on the condition but revealed other clubs who were interested in him pulled back after witnessing his lethargic displays.

Clarke said his understanding of the condition is that he lacks the hormone cortisone which led to him losing weight and struggling for energy.

At times, he even found it difficult to climb the stairs in his home and such was his concern for his health that the diagnosis of the treatable condition came as a relief.

The father of one recently returned to club action and has played seven games for An Riocht. He reported that it has gone better than expected and said he is excited about his plans to play for Down again next season.

“Yes, I totally am,” said Clarke. “When I am going out for a run around home, that’s what’s in my head — 2016 and the red and black.

“The main reason (for not playing in 2015) was the health. I came back from Australia with a condition, Addison’s disease. I couldn’t get up the stairs some days when I was at home. Thankfully I have progressed slowly but surely over the spring and winter. Going back into county football at this stage is certainly beyond me.

“I was only diagnosed in July last year, 2014. I’m still getting used to it in day to day life, let alone trying to play championship football. But I have played a number of club games and I’m showing progress but unfortunately it is still too far away to suggest playing for Down. There is no cure but the one positive thing for me is that I’m only replacing the hormone cortisone that my body isn’t making.

“It’s not as if I don’t have it at all, it’s just tampering with the medication to see how much you need for a big game or whatever. It will take a few more months but I’m hopeful for next season that I’ll be back.”

The condition required him to get special dispensation from anti-doping authorities to take medication while playing competitively. “I have the clearance until 2019. My blood results were sent away and I’m allowed to take a certain amount (of medication) so I’m all above board. Don’t worry, I’m not going to cheat to get back!

“It’s fairly straight forward because I’m only replacing something I don’t have.”

Clarke shot to national prominence five years ago when he returned from his first AFL stint to help Down reach the All-Ireland final. They lost to Cork by a single point and he was later awarded with an All Star. He is unlikely to enjoy such a run upon his return in 2016 though he rates Down currently as a ‘top eight’ side. In all likelihood, Clarke would still be in Australia had he not been diagnosed with the disease.

“There were a couple of other clubs interested in me at the time but because my performances for Collingwood reserves dropped off so dramatically, it almost like like ‘this guy isn’t trying any more’,” he said.

“In that respect, the interest went out the window very soon. My wife and I had talked about moving interstate to a new adventure within Australia and to be playing there. But I don’t blame them for not picking me.

“I could tell them that this is the condition I have and next year when I’m on medication it’ll be fine. But it’s too complicated for them. I have to understand where they are coming from too.”

Marty Clarke was speaking at the launch of Newstalk radio’s 2015 GAA coverage. New analysts for the championship include former Mayo manager James Horan and hurling icons Eoin Kelly and Brian Hogan.

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