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.

  • Pete Baker

    Ah.. I’d been trying to remember the name of that film.. Good film too.

    And the Collingwood FC site has a video report on Martin Clarke’s debut

    [hopefully the link will work]

  • merrie

    Yes, the Magpies have been considered to be a Catholic/Irish club, but I thought that had died out years ago. The relligious thing is not so strong in Australia as it is over here in sports. I was quite shocked by the Rangers/Celtic split. Also that Manchester United was considered Catholic.

    Most of my Irish Catholic family supported Collingwood but that’s because they lived locally for some of their childhoods.

    I am an Essendon supporter. At my school in rural Victoria the only topic of conversation on a Monday morning was the footie results, so all of us adopted one team or another. That was when Aussie Rules was by State rather than national. It was the VFL then not the AFL. And playing in Sydney was almost unheard of and if it occurred then a Victorian team would have thrashed a Sydney one because NSW was a rugby state, not an Aussie Rules one. The difference was almost like that of the Aussie cricket team vs the Irish cricketers.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Down, and Gaelic Football’s loss is most definitely Aussie Rules and Collingwood’s gain. Great performance by the young man. The Aussies aren’t usually big on the hype but after the match the Collingwood coach, Mick Malthouse, was raving about him…

    ..although after the match the same bloke, fearful that one of his star forwards may be suspended due to a high tackle, was also being rather disparaging about the lack of physical contact in GAA…,21985,21958257-661,00.html

    It’ll definitely be worth following Clarke throughout the rest of the AFL season. He really only got his chance so soon due to injuries but with Collingwood well placed he has a chance to follow Kerry man Tadhg Kennelly who won a premiership with the Swans.

    Although why anyone would want to give up playing in Kilkeeel to live in Melbourne and regularly play in front of 50-60,000 people (and get paid for it) is beyond me…

    Merrie – things have changed somewhat now with the Swans reaching the last two Grand Finals and being one of the biggest drawcards in the AFL since being transplanted from South Melbourne and enduring years of underachievement. NSW still very much a rugby (league then union) state though.

  • starbuck

    or maybe he could tell a few stories of half the players jumping fences when the Drug Testers show up at training sessions

    where do you think a lot of the aggro comes from?

  • Harry Flashman

    **Also that Manchester United was considered Catholic.**

    Are you sure about that? I understood Manyoo were for the prods, it was City that was the Catholic club.

    As regards Liverpool, they’re the prods and Everton are for the fenians and in London it was Chelsea (true blue) versus Arsenal, the Londoners version of Celtic.

    I am more than ready to stand corrected on all this however.

  • Irish Aussie

    Good analysis by Merrie and TWGM, Starbucks talking crap.
    Like merrie I am also an Essendon supporter, I don’t know if he is aware of this but up until the early 60’s it was almost impossible to get a game at Essendon unless you were a Freemason.
    But as an example of just how quickly these things can change by the late 80’s not only were the coach Kevin Sheedy, the captain Terry Daniher Catholics, but the No1 ticket holder was the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Sir Frank Little.
    Little grew up in Essendon and was a life long supporter of the club even when it was quite overtly anti Catholic

  • mojo

    Will be able to see Aussie Rules in the Ormeau Park stadium or will Paisley object to that too?

  • merrie

    >>up until the early 60’s it was almost impossible to get a game at Essendon unless you were a Freemason. <

  • Mick Fealty

    On the City/United thing: this an archaic definition that hasn’t held for a number of generations.

    City started as St Mark’s in 1880, taking their name from a local Baptist church. United started as a group of railway workers at Newton Heath: one of their previous grounds was on the site of the current Picadilly Station. But there was never a full on Rangers/Celtic thing between the two. It probably just reflects the demographics at the end of the victorian era and some tensions between Irish immigrants and the local English population.

    If the idea persisted into the modern era, it have more to do with Matt Busby’s very public devotion to his Catholic faith than anything real amongst its supporters. Though with Gregg, Blancheflower and Best in his teams, there is no hint his personal conviction affected his ability to pick the best team!

    Down the road in Liverpool there seems to be much more mixed support for Everton and Liverpool within the same families, possibly because both clubs originated from precisely the same Methodist Church, St Domingo’s. The idea of being ‘once a blue always a blue’ holds much more sway in Manchester. But, if it was once, it is no longer a religious definition. If anything, City is the local club, United is for weekend blow-ins. Or so they say!

    Although, sadly, I suspect United’s ten year grip on the Premiership and other domestic competitions during the nineties will have worked its evil spell on many Manchunian youngsters.

  • austin

    Did City not start as Ardwick, Mick?

    Regardless, the future may be bright. Sven was slaughtered by the media but is a good club coach-time for a renaissance for him and City. However it is vital that we keep ‘Frank Sinatra’ out of a Thai Slammer until we have spent all his dough on the new Steve Daley and Kevin Reeves!

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Excellent article by Michael Kenrick on an Everton fansite regarding the whole religion question in Merseyside football (including some particularly enlightening letters to the Guardian at the end).

  • Mick Fealty

    Eventually, in 1887, which is the date the modern club considers it was founded. But it had been playing as St Mark’s before that.

  • Mick Fealty


    “…the new Steve Daley”…

    Now that is a scary thought!

  • Prince Eoghan

    If there were any religious connotations regarding Aussie rules clubs I am unaware of it. I partly grew up in Melbourne and attended a Catholic high school in the northern suburbs, all teams were supported. My extended family over there are Collingwood fans to a man/woman, I have been to Victoria park, the MCG and the big stadium whose name escapes me in the S.E. suburbs, to watch them get the collywobbles. In my time there Hawthorn were supreme with Carlton chasing closely, and apart from the west coast eagles and Adelaide team the Brissie bears and Syndey team were mainly for show. This is the 80-90’s.

    Perhaps Irish Aussie or Merrie could remind me of the name of the three brothers (Daniher maybe) who came from the Catholic school in the sticks. This school produced loads of footballers and cricketers I believe.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Regarding the ties Celtic has with English clubs.

    Many Celtic have a strong affinity with Man.U, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal. Our many testimonials with Man.U over the years has provided strong links, recently at the Roy Keane one we badly outnumbered home fans. This is nothing new, we have done this at Anfield also. Post Heysel Dalgliesh brought his Liverpool side to an emotional welcome at Parkhead to play their first game, something that I missed but could describe in detail as I’ve heard about it from so many. Watching English football in the eighties with all the half Celtic tea cosy hats at goodison park was an education. Similarly at highbury, though the Irish connection allied with Charlie Nicholas helped. I do have a preference for Arsenal, but mainly I support Celtic and any team that beats Rangers ;¬)

    I should add that Rangers have been done no favours by their fans over this time period. There was incidents of unpleasantness and violence that stopped them receiving invites to play many a game in England. This may have stopped them building up rapports with other team’s fans apart from the unhealthy links with Chelsea fans.

  • merrie

    IMO religious prejudice in Australia was slight especially compared to parts of the UK.

    During the Depression a big health food company called Sanatarium would not employ Catholics, but since that company was created by the 7th Day Adventist Church I think it was fair enough that they would look after their own when jobs were scarce. It did not stop my Catholic family from buying Sanatarium products.

    Another rumour I heard was some Federal Government departments were more Catholic than others, the Department of Customs was considered “Catholic” though by the time I became a public servant no department had any religious connections, real or mythical.

    However Australia is not so squeaky clean with regard to racism. I remember having some new furniture, a student desk, in the 1960s and underneath it was rubber-stamped with something like “Made with white labour only” (can’t remember the exact words). This was meant to indicate that no Chinese or other non-white had made the product.

    There was also the white Australia policy which existed until the late 1960s. Potential immigrants were given test which could vary from one immigration officer to another. For example, a Chinese or Indian would be asked to translate something from or into Swahili or some other little-known language and of course s/he would fail.

    And there was the practice, unknown to 99.9% of Australians, of kidnapping white looking part-Aborigines to have them brought up in white Australia “in order to give them a better chance in life”. This went on for decades and did not end until the 1960s.

    All of this is cringe-making and an embarrassment.

  • Realist

    Good luck to young Martin.

    He was a regular at Northern Ireland games at Windsor Park (attending with his brother), and usually celebrated scoring a goal for St Louis school in Kilkeel by “doing a Healy”.

    I remember being heartened to hear of his support for the Northern Ireland team when he was interviewed before the MacRory Cup Final of 2005.

    “Collingwood are one of the biggest teams in Australian Rules football and are traditionally a Catholic club”

    One can only imagine the outcry if there was a sporting club that was “traditionally a Protestant Club”

    People would be calling them all sorts.

  • Diluted Orange

    Great to hear about a local guy doing so well out in Oz.

    I was out there about a year ago and AFL is huge – especially down in Melbourne. They all go nuts for the AFL final and Sydney Swans are one of the biggest teams around. From memory Collingwood weren’t doing so well when I was there so this makes this victory all the more significant.

  • alec

    Can you pick up Aussie Rules on terrestrial channels or do Sky Sports have the monopoly on this?

  • moral maze

    Realist, If you had taken the trouble to read previous posts you would have seen that Essendon was traditionally perceived as a club which drew its support from the ‘Protestant’ community.

    Thankfully the Aussies have moved away from this sort of nonsense and are no longer fixated by religon within sport.

    Any chance that you and the rest of the Northern Ireland supporters could do the same one of these centuries?

  • Realist

    Great to hear it moral maze – if one wants to express religious beliefs, a sporting venue is not the place to do it. Churches, Chapels etc, are much better for that sort of thing.

  • Mick Fealty


    I’m not being funny, but have you read Realist’s actual post? Looks like a distinct move away from ‘this sort of nonsense’ to me.

  • The Devil

    Glad he got out of that silly woman sport of Irishy-rugbyish-soccerery-handball type thingy that skilless farmer/thug Catholic bigot types play under the guise of Irish cultural sports.

    But then again he’s from Co Down so to hell or Collingwood with him.

  • Harry Flashman

    **And there was the practice, unknown to 99.9% of Australians, of kidnapping white looking part-Aborigines to have them brought up in white Australia “in order to give them a better chance in life”. This went on for decades and did not end until the 1960s.**

    That’s an interesting statistic you quote, just make it up did you? Given that the “Stolen Generation” thingy has been drummed into Aussies for a couple of decades now by liberal elites in the teaching profession and the media plus all the hype about “The Rabbit Proof Fence” movie, it would have to be that any Aussie who didn’t know about this practice must have been in a coma for the past twenty years.

    It may come as a shock but the idea of rescuing aboriginal children of mixed parentage from abusive homes may seem racist to our ears but at the time was considered very compassionate and progressive, it’s always best not to judge the past by current standards because who knows how we will be judged in the future.

  • Suilven

    All very well, Harry – but modern-day Australia doesn’t seem to have changed its discriminatory views:

    ‘The Australian prime minister, John Howard, confronted a furious response yesterday to his radical plans to deal with alcoholism and child abuse in indigenous communities, as the Aboriginal question threatened to grow into a major issue ahead of a general election.
    Opponents accused Mr Howard of seizing on the issue to boost his re-election chances after he announced a ban on alcohol and pornography, and compulsory medical checks for some Aboriginal children in parts of northern Australia blighted by appalling social conditions.

    But the government showed no signs of climbing down yesterday, announcing that extra police would be deployed in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory from next week, with the Australian Defence Force providing logistical support. The first officers will be based in Mutitjulu, near Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), to stamp out the use of alcohol and drugs, and gather evidence about the abuse of women and children.
    The indigenous affairs minister, Malcolm Brough, said: “We’ll be able to make a practical and real difference to that community.”

    The measures, which followed a major report last week that highlighted the chronic mistreatment of children in some communities, have in effect reversed a decade of allowing Aboriginal communities to largely govern themselves.

    As well as the ban on alcohol and pornography, school attendance will be enforced and restrictions put on welfare payments so parents spend their money on food and not on a “river of grog”, as the report’s co-author, Pat Anderson, an Aboriginal health specialist, put it. Indigenous communities will in effect come under federal authority for the next five years.

    But politicians claimed the prime minister was merely trying to look good in the run-up to the general election. Alan Carpenter, premier of Western Australia, said: “If he thinks it’s an emergency, one could ask the question: why hasn’t he done anything about it in the last 11 years? This is designed to create an issue for Mr Howard to run on.”

    Peter Beattie, premier of Queensland, also called the six-month ban on alcohol a “silly gimmick”. He said Aboriginal parents should be involved in any plans to improve social conditions in townships. “Let’s not become savages in this; we need to involve the community,” he said.

    There are serious questions about some of the measures. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance – Northern Territory said compulsory medical checks on indigenous children were racist and were causing anguish to parents. The Australian Medical Association said there were “nowhere near enough doctors” in the Northern Territory to conduct medical checks for an estimated 23,000 children.

    The drinks industry has called the alcohol ban “an administrative nightmare” and said it would not stop problem drinkers from getting alcohol. Community health workers have asked what treatment would be made available for sexual abuse victims or people forced off alcohol. Doubts have also been raised about the ability of local prisons to cope with a possible influx of Aboriginal prisoners in already full jails.

    However, Kevin Rudd, leader of the opposition Labor party, dismissed suggestions that the plan was a political stunt and said he would work with the government on a “positive, non-partisan basis”.

    Mr Howard was standing his ground. “We’ve been too timid in the past about interfering,” he said. “I’ll be slammed for taking away people’s rights but frankly I don’t care about that.”

    Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory have largely refused to comment so far, saying their councils would issue a considered response in due course. In Brisbane yesterday, demonstrators protesting about the acquittal of a police officer charged with the death of an Aboriginal man in custody condemned interference in Aboriginal affairs.’,,2109494,00.html

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>It may come as a shock but the idea of rescuing aboriginal children of mixed parentage from abusive homes may seem racist to our ears but at the time was considered very compassionate and progressive, it’s always best not to judge the past by current standards because who knows how we will be judged in the future.<

  • Martin

    Theoretical Slugger story:

    “A two year old girl from Newry is to be the first recipient of a life saving brain transplant”

    Sample post one : “She’s from Newry so probably didn’t have a brain in the first place”

    Sample post two : “All Newry people are in the ‘RA”

    Sample post three : “You, sample post two are obviously a typical scumbag hun”

    Sample post four : I heard an RAF helicopter was used to transport her to hospital. Disgraceful.

    Sample post five : If the bounday commission changes go ahead, Newry might only have 14 Sinn Fein councillers by the 2023 elections.

    Why does everything on this forum defend into a tedious sectarian squabble?

  • Harry Flashman

    **It was a do-gooder white man’s burden type idea to civilize aboriginal children as Christians.**

    Precisely my point, the people who carried out this practice regarded themselves as progressives, liberals even, who had the welfare of the children at heart and the fact that widespread appalling child abuse has been an unfortunate factor in aboriginal communities is always airbrushed out of the story.

    Now those former “progressives” are demonised as white racists who were merely kidnapping children and instead the policy is that aboriginal communities should simply be left to themselves and except in the most exceptional circumstances the Australian authorities stay out of them (except to provide welfare cheques). It is well documented that this policy has led to horrific stories of child abuse but because to admit to such things would be tantamount to admit to failure and because the supporters of this system don’t want their opponents to have anything bad to say about it the aboriginal authorities have usually turned a blind eye (hmmm, authorities who are aware of widespread child abuse but because they don’t want bad publicity try covering it up instead, now why does that sound familiar?).

    The newspaper aricle quoted above is a classic example, John Howard’s government decides to tackle this appalling situation (and incidentally receives a lot of suport from many aboriginal activists, no, admittedly not the rent a quote mob so beloved by the Guardian but people at the coalface who actually are aware of what is happening). But rather than try to support his tough stance he is merely accused of electioneering, well because as everyone knows banning alcohol and pornography in outback aboriginal communities is a surefire vote winner in Australian suburbs!

  • Donnacha

    And just to show how well-received the policy will be received in NT, the army have been drafted in:

  • Harry Flashman

    Relevant quote from the only non-politician in above article, the head of Paediatrics at the Royal Darwin Hospital, who having expressed some concerns about how the operation might appear, goes on to concede;

    “But it is doable, it is positive, I offer whatever assistance I can to make sure it works.”

    John Howard bashing is always fun in the media and academia, but actually helping aboriginal children in desperate need involves intelligent, mature adults.

  • Suilven

    I don’t personally accept, Harry, that removing even more rights from and further disempowering Aboriginal communities is likely to improve their lot one jot.

    And I think we know, since the demise of the One Nation party, that any policy that smacks of being hard on the ‘Abos’, will garner votes amongst a certain unsavoury sector of the Australian electorate.

  • Harry Flashman

    Maybe it will maybe it won’t but the “empowerment” policy hasn’t helped either, Lord knows what can be done to help the poor benighted aboriginals, everything seems to have failed so far, I hope something can be done to assist them but turning a blind eye to systematic child abuse because it’s politically inconvenient is certainly not an option.

    Furthermore if you believe that John Howard who has proven himself to be a master at judging the mood of the Australian electorate decided that the next election will be won on banning grog and porn in outback aboriginal communities then you clearly spend too much time reading Sydney Morning Herald editorials and too little time talking to actual, real life Australian voters.

  • sammaguire

    Good luck to Martin Clarke though I hope the GAA/Aussie Rules experiment is over for good. Far better to revive the Railway Cup. Imagine 82,500 at a Railway Cup Final under the lights. Could happen with proper marketing(as with the success of the Provinial rugby teams).