Down man impresses Down Under…

Too good to miss this one. James Black writes telling us that Kilkeel man Martin Clarke has made an impressive debut for Collingwood (featured in the 1980 film The Club) after only 16 games of Aussie Rules. Maybe he can come back and teach the International Rules squad a thing or two about living with the ‘heat’ of the Australian game.James writes:

A local boy makes good on the other side of the planet. Tonight County Down teenager Martin Clarke capped a meteoric rise to prominence in Australian Rules football by making a victorious debut for Collingwood against the Sydney Swans. Clarke has been playing Aussie Rules for less than a year but the 19-year old made a superb debut for the Magpies who won 10.16 (76) to 8.9 (57) at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium.

The Collingwood-Sydney match is one of the biggest matches in the AFL calendar and Clarke has gone from playing amateur football in Kilkeel to making his professional AFL debut in front of 65,000 people at the stadium that hosted the 2000 Olympics.

After a nervous start, he became a major factor in Collingwood’s victory and the post-match analysts were unanimous in their praise for Clarke calling him ‘phenomenal’ and ‘unbelievable’. The Australian sports website said the following ‘Irish youngster Martin Clarke was impressive on debut for the ‘Pies. His performance in the match, in which he gathered 20 possessions, hardly reflected that he had played just 16 games of football before running out for the first time in the black and white’.

Collingwood are one of the biggest teams in Australian Rules football and are traditionally both a Catholic club and a club with a large number of fans of Irish heritage.