Ardee talisman Darren Clarke has seen it all before, but there still one thing missing that elusive Senior championship medal. Having soldiered for the guts of two decades in the Mary’s forward line you can sense the enjoyment and relishing another opportunity to perhaps get what he is looking for.
“It is great to get to a final,” the team captain stated firstly.
“Anytime you get to a final it is a great occasion for everyone involved, the parish the whole lot. For the club as well you are talking 2003, 2016 the last time we've been there so I’m certainly looking forward to it.”
Ardee have been on the shortlist for success down the years but this year despite the global pandemic, it has seemed to click for Clarke and co and he conscious to praise his teammates for finally bringing it to fruition.
“Yes absolutely parts of our game have picked up, parts of our game we wouldn't be overly happy with like we need to work on too. We'll be looking to rectify that this Sunday but we've worked hard throughout the year.
“Obviously the virus that is out there at the minute, the pandemic has affected everyone's preparations and it has affected every team. It is strange times, you have to overcome that and as a group I have commend every last man. We've a big panel there and everyone is putting in serious effort. Between gym work between training we've always been there and everyone has been accounted for.”
Clarke acknowledged that the championship has a slightly different feel to it this year as a result and despite playing inside this bubble Clarke shows awareness to what is involved for all concerned.
“Strange times,” Clarke mused.
“You never would have thought that you might be going to a county final with only a 100 people at it. But the times are what they are, and as a society we have to be very careful out there and make sure that we adhere to all the social distancing and do it to the best of our ability to make sure we keep everybody safe and right.
Has the condensed season as a result of COVID benefited Ardee?
“Not at my age,” Clarke quickly quipped.
“Tough to get recovered in between but I do think it is good like. Great to see a crowd back there at the weekend. It is unbelievable to see people that aren’t able to get to the game, very unfortunate for them, but Lútv is great and people can tune in from home and the whole lot. But there definitely a buzz now with people getting back to the games. You can see the joy on people's faces going to football games for the first time in a long time. so I think that is a real positive for people.
So, looking ahead to weekend, Clarke is mindful of the threat his Monasterboice opponents pose but it is adamant that the ace attacker is going to enjoy the moment now with ironically less scoring responsibility trust upon him.
“The Mairtin's have shown this past number of years and they've eased to a final this year. They are the form team. They've been very unlucky in the first year they lost to Newtown Blues, they could have won that game very easily. So we are under no illusions how tough a game it is going to be and the Mairtin’s really have a formidable side with quality all through the squad so but we'll do our best to work hard to unsettle them.
“It is not about myself, it is about the team you can see that all year,” Clarke finished. “You have all the fella's laced throughout the team. We can get scores from anywhere. Not just myself or Ronan, there is great balance throughout the team we are getting scores from across the pitch. It is great to take the burden off. We move the ball well and it is definitely an occasion to look forward to when you get to a County final. We'll all be cherishing it and please god, may the best team win.”
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