MARTIN CLARKE HAS starred in football fields at home and abroad.
His Gaelic football days saw him come to the fore on a Down All-Ireland minor winning side in 2005 and nearly guide the county to Sam Maguire in a 2010 season where he claimed an Allstar award.
He moved to Australia where he adapted successfully to life in the AFL, making over 70 appearances for Collingwood.
But the 27 year-old’s sporting career has been stalled by contracting a condition called Addison’s Disease.
“I came back from Australia with a condition, Addison’s Disease,” says Clarke.
“I couldn’t get up the stairs some days when I was home. I was diagnosed in July last year, 2014.
“Before I got diagnosed I didn’t know what it was. I was still playing professionally in Australia so I was trying to conserve all my energies for training and games.
“It was really strange for a young fit fella in the space of two months to suddenly be struggling to get up the stairs some days. It’s the adrenal glands basically, they get attacked by your own body and they shut down totally.
“Eventually we got to the bottom of it. 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.”
Clarke has gone back playing football with his club An Ríocht and is on the road to recovery.
Thankfully I have progressed slowly over the spring and winter but to suggest going back into county football at this stage is certainly beyond me.
“It will take a few more months but I’m hopeful for next season that I can get back.”
The Down man has no regrets over the fact that his second coming in Australia was not a major success.
“I was relieved to be honest because I had lost a lot of weight as well and I just wanted to get to the bottom of it. I was sick and tired of feeling the way I was.
“I don’t really look back with any regrets or ‘why me’ or bitterness because it’s not a positive energy to carry through. I’m just thankful it wasn’t something more sinister.
“There were a couple of other clubs interested in me at the time because my performances for Collingwood reserves dropped off so dramatically it almost looked like ‘this guy isn’t trying anymore’.
In that respect the interest went out the window very soon. But I don’t blame them for not picking me.
“It is disappointing because I know probably people in Australia might feel my second time around wasn’t as good as it could have been or it was a waste of time but I don’t feel that way at all.”