Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO
# opening up
'I was feeling terrible and losing weight': Down's Marty Clarke on forced retirement and 'difficult few weeks'
The 29-year-old suffers from a rare medical condition called Addison’s Disease.

MARTY CLARKE HAS admitted it’s been a ‘difficult few weeks’ but is looking on the bright side after being forced to retire from Gaelic football at just 29 due to a rare medical condition.

Speaking to Ger Gilroy on Newstalk’s Off The Ball tonight, the former Down forward revealed his initial thoughts when doctors diagnosed him with Addison’s Disease — a disorder which results in the adrenal glands not producing enough steroid hormones and which affects only one in every 100,000 people

“I was relieved initially”, he said.

“It wasn’t something more sinister and going to affect me acutely for the rest of my life. I was feeling terrible and losing weight. I was happy it wasn’t life-threatening”.

That was three years ago and though Clarke has attempted to get back playing since, the affect of the condition – on his energy levels particularly – was profound.

Martin Clarke Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

“I wasn’t processing it when the doctors told me, really”, he said.

“I started to take the medication and felt fine and 95% of the time I’m completely fine. But the dynamic nature of Gaelic.. it seems to be when the energy levels really go down. I was out on the field at my club and the first few training sessions I started thinking ‘This is difficult and I have to build it up slowly’. But getting shouldered, bending over – my body couldn’t cope.  And it’s getting to the stage where there’s too much pressure on my body”.

Clarke, who enjoyed two successful spells with Aussie Rules side Collingwood, said he hadn’t felt fully fit in three years.

“I had an ankle reconstruction at the end of the 2013 AFL season and was off my feet for 3 months”, he told Gilroy.

“I was determined to get back because it was the last year of contract and I hit the ground running – my times were up. That’s the last time I remember thinking I’m back to full fitness. And then it started creeping up on me and the symptoms were there after that”.

Clarke, who helped Down reach the 2010 All-Ireland final against Cork, will still be able to enjoy physical activities like running, 5-a-side football and some light weights. But all levels of competitive football action are off the table.

Still, regarding the career he’s had, Clarke has no regrets.

“I have to be very grateful for what was given to me. Growing up playing in the back field I used to pretend to be Mickey Linden. And some kids grew up pretending to be Marty Clarke”.

We’ll Leave It There So: Familiar faces return for Ireland, Clarke’s retirement and today’s sport

Rare medical condition forces Down’s Marty Clarke to retire aged 29

Your Voice
Readers Comments