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Clarke still keeping it real

Sport

Two-time All Star David Clarke reveals some tricks of his trade

Feature
Mike Finnerty

IF David Clarke goes on to win a third All Star, an eighth Connacht senior championship medal or even that elusive first All-Ireland senior medal, he will look back on the last few months and wonder how much ‘Cosmic Yoga’ with his kids or the training drills with his wife, Paula, at the side of their house in Ballina had to do with it!
The veteran Stephenites goalkeeper gave a fascinating interview to Liam Swift of Reusch Ireland (Clarke is an ambassador for the well-known gloves manufacturer) last week where he talked about everything from his kick-out techniques (‘a work in progress’) to his trademark ‘octopus’ shot-stopping approach (‘sometimes you get lucky’) to his most memorable save — an acrobatic effort against Cork in an All-Ireland Qualifier in Limerick back in 2017. “The saves that you’re not expected to make give you the greatest satisfaction,” he admitted.
“I’d be big on self-reflection; even after training I’d write down things that I did well or could do better,” he also admitted candidly.
He also revealed that he’d taken a break from training over the last few weeks, but in the two months immediately after the GAA season came to a halt, Clarke took a brilliantly simple approach to his work-outs.
In between the ‘prescribed runs and weights’ on Conor Finn’s training programme for the Mayo squad, the 36 year-old also joined his two young daughters from time to time when they did some ‘Cosmic Yoga’ classes on YouTube, roped his wife into doing some goalkeeping sessions with him, took part in some online fitness classes run by friends at North West Fitness, and honed his restarts in a quite unusual way.
It’s very hard when you’re kicking into a bunch of trees!” he smiled.
“I did a bit of everything, to keep the mind active,” he explained. “In some of them I had real purpose, in others I was just outside, kicking a ball against the wall, being like a young lad again.
“There’s some amount of stuff on You Tube when you type in ‘solo goalkeeper training’!” he added. And as for his one-on-one sessions: “I didn’t have anyone to hit proper volleys at me — just my wife throwing the ball at me!”
A Garda based in Sligo town, Clarke went on to say that during the normal GAA season he ‘could be gone five or six evenings between work and training’.
How things have changed. “I’m home every evening now with my family and getting to switch off.
“At the moment I’m just taking a break for a few weeks, just doing a bit of prehab and rehab,” he continued. “Maybe on June 1 I’ll get back into it again. But I’m finding it hard to get away from the grass the weather is so nice out there.”

Living the dream
IT’S worth remembering that David Clarke was still in school at St Muredach’s College in Ballina when Pat Holmes called him into the Mayo senior panel in 2001.
He was 17 years of age and also a Mayo minor.
“I was living the dream really” is how Clarke describes the experience, which included winning a National League medal that spring.
He didn’t know it at the time, but the man he was understudy to back then — Peter Burke — was to became ‘a huge influence’ on his career.
The duo worked together for eight seasons from 2011 to 2018 and it was Burke who ‘coaxed’ Clarke to switch from ‘hard-toe rugby boots to softer boots’ seven or eight years ago.
In typically modest fashion, Clarke said he also believed that old-fashioned good luck has also played a big part in his success story. Not to mention Peter Schmeichel and Andy Gray!
“A lot of my early coaches [in Ballina] were goalkeepers, Barry Murphy and Liam Higgins, so I was very lucky that I had that guidance in a nice, gentle way.
“I was good to practice on my own, I didn’t mind practicing on my own, I wanted to get better.
“I remember watching Andy Gray’s TV show, ‘Boot Room’ and he did a session with Mark Bosnich; for some reason I hadn’t seen any goalkeeping training before on television.
“I remember seeing it on Sky one evening and going away then afterwards practicing.
“I was a Man Utd fan,” he mused when asked about his penchant for ‘making himself big’ when opposition forwards are bearing down on goal.
“Watching Peter Schmeichel, he was the top man at the time. Their games were on television more than most so I probably picked that up there. I’m still doing it automatically. I can’t remember thinking about doing it. You get lucky sometimes.
“One my early coaches told me, ‘Just go for it! If you go for it it might hit something!’”
On the subject of kick-outs, Clarke said that he doesn’t try to ‘kill the ball’ when he’s going long. “I try and get a nice rhythm and keep the left shoulder strong” he explained.
He also gave an insight into ‘a defining time’ in his career back in the early 2000s when he tore his cruciate, ‘wasn’t playing much football’ and dropped down to play with the Stephenites junior team.
He ended up being ‘water boy’ for Mayo’s 2004 All-Ireland Final defeat to Kerry.
“John Maughan and Liam McHale kept me involved, I was third choice goalkeeper. . .
“I definitely look back on that as a defining time for myself”.
And here he is, 16 years later, still going strong.

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