A century not out for Clarke

GAA news

Last Sunday was a special occasion for Cavan’s Killian Clarke, who marked his 100th appearance at senior level for the county.

Clarke has enjoyed a stellar career to date. He won an Ulster Minor Championship medal at full-back in 2011 on a star-studded team which also included the likes of Gerry Smith, Ciaran Brady, Conor Moynagh, Michael Argue, Liam Buchanan, Paul Graham, Joe Dillon and Dara McVeety.

Clarke went on to win three Ulster U21 medals as well as Minor Championship medals with amalgamations Killann Gaels and O Raghallaigh Gaels and Junior and Intermediate medals with Shercock, while he gained international honours with Ireland against Australia. At senior level with Cavan, the 28-year-old made his championship debut against Donegal in 2012; he has played in all four divisions of the National League and, of course, won his first Ulster SFC medal in November, 2020.

Asked about his 100th cap after the win over Sligo on Sunday, the personable Clarke stated: “Obviously you want to play for Cavan for as long as possible. I’m delighted with the achievement myself and obviously on a personal level, it was great to get the win for the team as well.”

A stockbroker by trade, it wouldn’t take Killian, who has generally played in a defensive role, too long to tot up his scoring tally for the county; his point against Sligo brought his career total to 1-18.

“They’re few and far between, I got a goal in a McKenna Cup game against Derry one year, that was my only ever goal,” he smiled.

“Yeah, great to get on the scoreboard today, it was end to end, not something that we probably would have liked, very open football, but great to get over the line all the same.

“I think they used the ball very well with the kick pass inside and we didn’t get our plus-one in place early enough. It was sort of one-on-one, we left the full-back line hung out a wee bit.

“There is definitely lots to work on, they were getting their kick-outs out very quickly, something we didn’t really get to grips with, we’ll have to have a look at that over the next week or two. Definitely loads to work on.”

Some of the Cavan players found it hard to keep their footing at times on the fast Croke Park surface.

“You’re not the first person to say that to me, a lot of the management would be in agreement, you probably need a different type of footwear or something. But it’s the same for both teams all the same, it’s not something we’ll look into too much.”

Both sides missed chances, he observed.

“Sligo probably had maybe three goal chances there, we definitely had maybe four or five one-on-ones that we left behind us. It was very open football, honest, letting the ball in early and getting in there before the cover was there. It was definitely nice to come out on the right side of the result today.”

The finale was quite nervy for Cavan until Gerry Smith fired over the insurance point deep in injury time.

“Gerry is very comfortable off both sides, as you can see. He sort of weaved his way in, I think they weren’t expecting him to kick it off the left but he ended up about six or seven yards out on their 13 with no pressure on him which you don’t see too often. Gerry had a great game today and Gearoid was excellent as well.”

For Clarke, it was heartening to see the Cavan supporters in full voice at HQ again.

“The left-hand side of the stand was all Sligo if I’m correct in saying that and the other side was all Cavan. It was great to see so many Cavan faces and flags back in Croke Park. Since I was coming through with Cavan maybe 10 or 11 years ago at this stage, we didn’t have too many good days in Croke Park so it’s nice to win today and hopefully we see a few more faces the next day.

“It’s a massive stepping stone for us. We have a lot of lads coming back from long-term injuries, timing it just nicely coming into the final, and a few of them made appearances there today too. It’s a great confidence-booster for us, I’ve played in Croke Park maybe five or six times in the last 10 years and haven’t come out on the right side of results.

“It’s good to get another game in Croke Park, we’ll analyse whoever the winners of the other semi-final are and we’ll take it from there early next week.”

The next Cavan players to hopefully join the '100 Club' will be Raymond Galligan and Killian Brady, who are on 98 appearances.