David Clarke retires from the fray

Photo: Irish Examiner

David Clarke today became the second Mayo player in as many days to announce his retirement from the inter-county scene. In doing so, the 37 year-old Ballina Stephenites clubman brings down the curtain on an incredible twenty-year stint as an inter-county player.

The news was confirmed by Mayo GAA earlier on today (here). The announcement included a statement from the player himself in the course of which he stated:

I have lived my dream and taken so much from the experience.

David Clarke was only eighteen years of age when he was part of the match-day panel for the National League final against Galway at Croke Park in April 2001, which we won by 0-13 to 0-12. The previous year he’d lined out for the county’s Minors in the All-Ireland final and in 2001 he went on to play in the Championship at Minor and U21 levels, winning Connacht medals in both.

After a few run-outs in the FBD League in January 2002, Clarkie made his first Senior start in that year’s League. That was on 10th March 2002 against Kildare in Newbridge where he kept a clean sheet on a day that Marty McNicholas bagged three goals for us as we won by 4-5 to 0-7. James Horan also lined out for us that day.

Competition for the goalkeeper’s jersey was fierce back then – as it continued to be all during David’s time on the Senior panel – with Peter Burke the first-choice net-minder and Fintan Ruddy also jostling for a starting place. This explains why it wasn’t until 2005 – against Roscommon at Hyde Park on 15th June that year – that he finally made his Senior championship debut. He kept another clean sheet that day.

By then, David had won his first and, sadly, his only All-Ireland medal. That came on St Patrick’s Day 2005 when Ballina Stephenites won the All-Ireland club Championship, though John Healy was between the sticks for that game against Portlaoise, with Clarke an unused substitute.

2006 proved his breakthrough year. Although it was Fintan Ruddy and David’s clubmate John Healy who lined out most in goals for Mayo that year, Clarkie was handed the jersey for the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Laois and he retained his place from then on, including for the All-Ireland final against Kerry.

In all, he went on to play in five finals – as well as the 2006 decider, he started in 2012, 2017 and 2020 and he also came on as a sub in the second half of the 2016 one.

He’d have played in the 2013 one as well but suffered an extremely bad hamstring injury in the Connacht semi-final that year, which was so serious it kept him out of action until the start of 2015. That was but one of a number of injuries he suffered as a player down the years.

Career-wise, David made 133 appearances for the county at Senior level, 56 of them in the Championship. As well as that All-Ireland club medal he claimed National League honours in 2001 and again in 2019 and won eight Connacht Championship medals, as well as other provincial honours at underage level.

David also won two All-Star awards, in 2016 and 2017, and in the latter year he was also shortlisted for the Footballer of the Year award, which Andy Moran went on to win.

He also faced strenuous competition down the years for the No.1 jersey, most famously, of course, from Robbie Hennelly, but also from Peter Burke, Fintan Ruddy, John Healy and Kenneth O’Malley.

Irrespective of where you stood on the long-running Clarke/Hennelly debate – and most Mayo supporters I know had firm views one way or the other, as I did myself – there are very few who would argue against the proposition that David Clarke was by some distance the finest shot-stopper in the game over the last decade. He saved our bacon countless times in that regard, with his one-on-one stop from Bernard Brogan late in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final a particularly memorable highlight.

Two decades of inter-county service is an incredible achievement and David leaves the field having made an enormous contribution to the county’s football team at a time when, in particular over the last decade, we competed at the very highest level year after year.

David has opted to go out while on top, having put in what was arguably his best ever All-Ireland display in the pre-Christmas decider against Dublin. He’ll be greatly missed and will be an extremely hard act to follow.

Thanks for everything, David, and best wishes for the future.

58 thoughts on “David Clarke retires from the fray

  1. A sad day and a big loss as David Clarke leaves at the top of his game. He was outstanding in the AI final and should have been No. 1 on the team of the championship. Best wishes for the future, David.

  2. A superb goalie, he was immense at doing his primary role which was saving shots, made himself huge in one on ones, dominant in the air, a solid kickout and the man I’d want as Mayo No.1. Time moves on however, time for others to stake their claim.

    Best of luck David.

  3. I have watched them all, from the days of Mick Corkery in ’59 to David Clarke in 2020, none of them would be a match for Clarke in my opinion. He was a living nightmare for any fullback and when he came out for the ball, he collected it A great fielder and shot stopper. After 20 years at the top of his game and always looking for ways to improve his game I fear we will never see his equal again. Thank you David, a true gentleman who bleeds the green and red.

  4. Time stands still for no man and that is true as it will be for the natural attrition that will afflict these mighty, mighty warriors. They owe us no apologies as their effort was plain for all who wanted to see it. I feel privileged after watching the efforts in the late 70s, 80s, 90s and noughties to have had the opportunity to watch what I would regard as the greatest collection of men to represent our county in that period.
    Some fella from Kerry announced his retirement today having won an all ireland in ’14. His name slips my mind, I guarantee you that no one will forget the names of Barrett, Vaughan, Boyle, O Sheas, McLoughlin, O Connor, Clarke Cafferkey or any of the rest either.

  5. David Clarke has to be admired for both his never giving up attitude and his unequaled shot stopping ability . In using the word unequaled I think it is fair to say including the current Dublin keeper .
    He took some slack as did Robert in the heat of mayo supporters quest for an all Ireland .
    I think what most stands out is humility and that what makes me sad to see him go .
    Sad day for For us as another Mayo legend retires . .

  6. Interesting quote from westmeaths John connellan
    Connellan has written to every county secretary outside of Dublin outlining a motion that calls for games development funding to be allocated on the basis of the number of registered GAA members in each county.

    He pointed out how Mayo, beaten by Dublin in last month’s All-Ireland football final, received €584,561 in games development funding from 2007-17, while Dublin were given €16,612,847.
    Not a very level playing field
    Best wishes to both players for great service to county

  7. Leaves the stage after one of his finest performances. He thoroughly deserved both All Star awards. That he wasn’t always our first choice keeper during those years, or indeed first choice for his club during the earlier part of his career, speaks volumes for his determination to improve and strive to be the very best. A great example to younger players to keep persevering.

    Another giant of the game departs. With no disrespect to other great custodians, the best Goalkeeper Mayo has produced.

  8. This announcement has come as a shock to me, didn’t see it coming.
    A lifetime given to the cause but sad for him and the guys there since 2010 to not have got the big one.

  9. Hugely underrated keeper nationally. A better keeper than the hugely overrated Cluxton – who you would not hear half as much about if he didn’t play for Dublin. Clarke was a better shot stopper and in the air. Whilst his kick outs weren’t technically as good he managed them well enough as evidenced in this years final as well as the 2017 final.

    Cluxton had to kick into the corners in 2017 and made a balls of his kick outs in this years final.

    Always remember also that long kick outs are as much down to the midfielders receiving them as the keeper kicking them out.

  10. Sad to see both lads depart without an All ireland medal. Wishing them well in their retirement .Yes Ontheditch – i have been reading John Connellan’s proposal now. A lot of work has obviously gone into it. I hope he has his motion worded according to the ‘rules’ as the head honchos are sticklers for the auld red tape. We need a lot more like him to stand up to Croke Park. Hope our clubs and County Board support it.

  11. As I said in a previous post Clarke was a super servant to Mayo GAA. He instilled confidence in his defenders and amongst us supporters. What made him especially outstanding was not just his shot stopping for which he is widely acknowledged but more for his ability to change with the times. The role of goalkeeper has changed so much in the last 15 years. It is such a credit to Clarke that he continued to adapt . We all know his kick outs could be problematic so wasn’t it brilliant to see him do so well in the final v Dublin in December. He and Hennelly fought for that No 1 jersey for years and huge credit must go to David for sticking with it on occasions when he must have been seriously disappointed. A really great goalie and a really great man, he will be sorely missed. Winning 2 All Stars in an era of brilliant goalkeepers was some achievement. By the way Spotlight I can’t agree with you when you say Cluxton was over rated. He is the best I have ever seen, but Clarkie I was privileged to watch you and the team you represented so brilliantly. Happy retirement.

  12. To win just one – Obviously we all have different opinions but Cluxton has made glaring errors under pressure in the big games .e.g. two errors that led to two goals against Kerry in 2016 semi final, fluffed kicks against us late in 2015 drawn semi and many others. He’s a good keeper but his status in my view is embellished because he’s Dublin’s keeper and played against weak Leinster opposition.

    What I find interesting is the errors he has made in big games…and still is regarded by the Dublin -centric media as the best keeper of all time.

  13. Absolute legend not just in Mayo all of Ireland, David Clarke, best shot stopper the game has seen, peerless in the air ..20 year’s for the Green and Red, truly amazing!…Was on top of his game to the very last!

  14. A class act who bows out at the top of his game. Constantly evolved and improved. Was treated shoddily in 2016 but enough of that. Could have and should have walked. Some man to stick it out, win another All star in ’17, then to play a blinder in this year’s final.

    Thanks Clarkie. Enjoy your retirement.

  15. It seems somewhat inadequate that such great servants of Mayo football just slip away into the night without further acknowledgement from us, their supporters. Maybe both Donie and David (and any others who might join them from the ranks in the next few weeks) can be cajoled into coming onto the pitch at half time at our next home game, when crowds are allowed once again, so they can hear our appreciation in person?!

  16. Thank you, Donal Vaughan and David Clarke for all you’ve given us over the past many years. I wish you both the very best for the future. Not a bad idea, Sean Thornton.

  17. It will be very tough replacing him and you have to wonder why no one else has been brought in I would feel management knew this was David’s last year 8 months ago

  18. Best wishes for the future David, thank you for all the effort and commitment you gave for the Mayo cause over the years. Our best ever keeper in my view, he was excellent in the All Ireland Final two weeks ago, an all time Mayo great.

  19. Cluxton was there 11 years and was never mentioned as the greatest of anything until GAA funding money was put into the equation. Remember Pat Gilroys “ startled earwigs” or how Meath put 5 past cluxton in a single game in 2010?

  20. We’d have been relegated a long time ago without Clarke, we’d definitely have been beaten in many qualifiers without Clarke, we’d have seen far less of croke Park without Clarke. As WJ says he saved our bacon countless times. When we were under performing, when were under serious pressure, David Clarke somehow always managed to keep us in the game. Truly the last line of defence. Thank you David.

  21. Clarke was an amazing servant to Mayo GAA and has probably been the best shot-stopper in Ireland for the last decade. I know now Hennelly will more than likely, take the no.1 shirt but are there any other keepers in the fold that would challenge him/take the number 2. I know some keepers left such as Slingerman. Just interested.
    In regards to the article connellen I knew they were getting alot of funding but that is a massive difference. Makes you think had the funding been even we surly would have one one by now.
    Once again best wishes to Clarke a great warrior.

  22. So who are the likely contenders for new number 1 then? Hennelly has had countless chances at this stage, surely we need to be looking elsewhere, presuming byrne, jennings and reape the most likely contenders

  23. This round of retirements just reinforces how privileged we have been over the past 10+ years with the players we have seen in the Mayo jersey. That penalty save from David Clarke and the save from the rebound against Dublin in the league in 2017 was remarkable, what a goalie. We won’t see his like again.
    I just see now that Tom Parsons has also announced his retirement. How that man ever got back to play intercounty football again after what happened in 2018 defies logic.
    Congratulations to both Tom and David on fabulous football careers, and take a collective bow.

  24. Tom Parsons now retired. Another stalwart in fairness. To even get back from that horror injury.
    I’m beginning to think that James Horan maybe asked the lads to in a way to announce all retirements in early January so he could move on and concentrate with the new breed. Probably will be another few in the coming days.

  25. These announcements does really make the impact of the transition hit home and it’s great that so many new players have been given a chance in the squad this year.

    Three absolute giant players that have given some amazing memories for all of us. I wish them all the very best of luck in their retirement and hope in time that they can be involved in the county set up.

  26. Sad to see them go, but in fairness they were not going to get much game time this year except Clarke maybe. Time for young guns to hit the ground running in the next month.

  27. Sad to see them go, but in fairness they were not going to get much game time this year except Clarke maybe. Time for young guns to hit the ground running in the next month. A few more to do the same in next few days

  28. I’d say Higgins, Boyle and Seamie will definitely call it a day due to injuries and lack of playing time. Barrett might stay another year given he played a lot this year but as he lives in Dublin he may call it a day also.

    As the poster above said, bringing on all these new lads was vital this year.

  29. Waking up every day to see another veteran calling it a day is doing nothing for my january blues…i suspect there will be a few more before the week is out…

    Godspeed Tom

  30. I think.your spot on there Tuamstar…..n mayb few more to come….
    I’m sad see clarke go so soon as woud be a great fellow there for the new goalies coming in and we badly need a new 1 n 2….
    Mayb in as goalie coach though in management team…
    Best luck to 3 lads….gave ye all for green n red….ledgends???

  31. Kind of surprised. Felt he had another year or two in him. A bit crazy that he was let walk away before a replacement was blooded.

  32. Best of luck Tom – he was a true inspiration. Loved following him and the team all over the country. Fun times. The reception he got that afternoon in Limerick shows how much he meant to us all. He will be sorely missed. Such class thanking the mayo fans for their resilience. Sad and depressing day. We will never see their likes again.

  33. Ah lads.. This is heart breaking.. Another list of unreal footballers not to win one…

  34. Best of Luck Tom, an inspirational man, will be missed.

    Dreamy, sorry but I have to say, nobody let him do anything, it’s an amateur sport and these guys are free to leave as they please, nobody has the right to tell them otherwise. Tom has a young family and lives in Dublin so dont blame him for stepping away, more important things in life than football.

  35. All the best to the three lads. They’ll go down in history as some of our finest. Still kills me to think that they (and plenty before them) never got to lift Sam.
    I’m sure there will be a few more in the coming weeks too.

    The one good thing is that at least we handled the transition well. The young lads have had the experience of learning from these guys, this will have brought them on no end.
    The fact we made the final last year will also be a massive help in terms of experience and their development.
    I was worried about what would happen after the inevitable retirements, but I think we can look forward with some degree of confidence now.
    Promotion in the league and blooding some more new players should be our first goal of the year. Winning Connaught will be tough over the coming years, as there’s not much between ourselves and Galway (and Ros to a lesser extent). But we also need to reassert some dominance in Connaught with our underage teams.

  36. Best of luck to Tom. Thank you for your hard work. The erring is on the wall, you’re either played or you’re not in the planes after you reach a certain age. I think we made a big mistake in the final a couple of weeks ago not to have these lads come on in the second half. Their experience and a half hour of hard running was needed.

  37. Jesus, hard to keep up with events, Tom Parsons also retired.
    It’s not nice to see but time moves on and injuries dont help.
    Time for a big rebuilding job now with at least 6 new players to he added.

  38. The GOAT of Mayo goalies.

    Best of luck too to Tom P in his retirement, was probably robbed of a couple of his best years though that horrific knee injury he sustained.

  39. To Donie, David, and now Tom.
    Wishing ye great men a very happy family time and best of every good wish for the future from here onn in yere lives.
    Feeling sad hearing all this news having witnessed yere games over the last decade, and for our next generation witnessing ye’re dedication, courage following awful injuries, and love for the green and red.
    How do we all thank ye!!! But thank ye for great days and years.
    We will never forget ye, NOT for not winning an all ireland, but WILL always remember ye for wonderful skills in Goal, Defence, and Midfield, and most of all the role models ye have all become for the younger Mayo generation.
    God bless and protect ye forever.

  40. One of the issues here will be A v B games and developing talent with these guys gone who can take up the panel spaces to provide training opposition.
    Also an issue as now we are dealing with lower tier Division 2 teams in the league so when championship comes we are not at the correct level.
    We need to be division 1 that is critical

  41. David Clarke without doubt

    the best shot stopper in the Country these last 15 years,

    the best penalty saver we’ve ever seen

    with a level playing field and fair selection policy, an All Star in 13 of the last 15 years.

    Now that Clarke has retired, Cluxton can move up to number 1 in the Country, having been at 2 for a decade.

    Clarke’s finest moment. Brogan in 2012 going in for the kill while Mayo were crumbling all around him with 83,000 watching on, weak with excitement. Clarke stood firm and said “not today Brogan”.

  42. I remember hearing Mike Finnerty describe Tom Parson as perpetual motion and I can’t think of any better description of Tom when in full flight!!!

  43. Has there ever been a quiet closed season for mayo football and its fans? great for those needing to fill column inches for sure but what about our poor host who prob thought he could put the feet up for a couple of months! never a dull moment in mayo gaa circles!

  44. Mayomad, I was talking about David Clarke. And I didn’t mean that anyone was stopping him from leaving or should have been doing that, I’m simply saying that it’s surprising that a replacement wasn’t blooded last year if there was any inkling that Clarke was going to call it a day this year.

  45. ….and now Tom….who will it be tomorrow?
    Lookit they owe us nothing. I feel privileged to have seen them in the flesh….mighty, mighty men…no doubt about it.

  46. @dreamysleepy… Sure Tom hardly played last year. Loftus and Ruane were our midfielders most of the year with Diarmuid and Aiden in support at times

  47. Clarkie. Thank you. What a great keeper.

    I think Horan & Co need to look to a new face now between the sticks. Yer man O’Malley who opted out of professional football, could be an option. I’ve heard some posters mention Reape from Knockmore.

    Kickouts are important but shot stopping, being dependable under a high ball and organising a defence are more important – look at Cavan’s goal v Donegal. You want a keeper who rarely makes a mistake. That is why Clarke was (for me) an obvious and no-brainer starter over Hennelly or any other keeper. Unfortunately Robbie is prone to errors. Clarke was so reliable. The best ‘stopper’ in the country for the past decade.

    Tom gone too. Thanks to him. Injury was always going to be so difficult to recover from. Midfield is an area we need another new face in too.

  48. Another bit of sad news with Tom’s announcement but we will always remember him as one of the warriors. His comeback from that 1998 injury highlighted his warrior standing.
    I do suspect that there will be a few more calling it a day but I don’t expect that it will include Chris Barrett who spent long days on the subs bench but secured a regular spot in this years championship. He has to be coming near the end agewise but why rush off now when at the top. Colm Boyle too has to be coming near the end but if he is recovering well from last years he may well stay on. He has the advantage that he can play in any position in defence so even if he were not a regular starter he could play a major role for us in ’21.While we are bringing in several youngsters there is always a place for the steel that a fit Colm would bring. Keith is another possibility and I would not be surprised to see him decide to give a year or two to county hurling.

  49. Very sad to see two more stalwarts of the 2nd best ever Gaelic football team retiring, they were great servants to Mayo and i wish David and Tom the very best of luck and health in the future. Thanks again lads.

  50. Thanks to the lads for all they’ve given to the Mayo cause. Many great days with these guys on the pitch. The highlight for Donie had to be the goal vs Donegal in 2013. Possibly the greatest performance of our great team.

  51. It’s really tough listening to these retirements and it’s hard to find the words to do these men justice because they have been so close to our hearts for so long. I think what’s most truthful to say right now is that they have given us amazing days, that they will always be in our hearts and that we remember multiple shows of skill from each one of them from these last few years. We’ve really been privileged. May ye all fly and prosper.

  52. My Ball, as I said, I was talking about David Clarke, the person the original post was about.

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