Patrick Morrison

Patrick Morrison: Thank you David

THIS week came the news that one of the greatest goalkeepers of the modern era had decided to hang up his gloves.
David Clarke had been custodian of the Mayo goal for 20 years and has represented both his club and county with distinction. He won eight Connacht Championship titles, two National Football League titles and one All-Ireland Club title with Ballina Stephenites on St Patrick’s Day in 2005.
He made his debut for Mayo back in 2002, and he played 133 games for them, 56 of which were in the Championship, five of which were in All-Ireland finals (2006, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2020). It is such a shame he could not have added that all elusive Celtic Cross to his collection.
For me, there was no goalkeeper more able to deal with attacking situations than David Clarke. From one v ones, two v ones, two v twos, his composure and decisiveness gave him a massive advantage over the attackers which mostly ended in favour of the 37-year-old. I cannot recall a time when I ever thought or saw him make a poor decision. He knew what needed to be done in every situation and acted on it with confidence.
Clarke was excellent at minimising the options an attacker had in front of goal. His agility and speed of movement meant we became accustomed to witnessing him save those shots that are deemed unsavable. Limiting the options that the attacker had available allowed him to have a sense of foresight in regard to where they would place their shot or what action they would execute next. With this in mind it meant the opposition needed to be at the top of their game to be able to score past him.
For Mayo, he has been an exceptional leader for them over the years both in voice and stature. Indeed, how he would regularly play on the field ensured that he would always ‘Lead By Performance’ which would serve to boost the confidence of his teammates. And it is here where his greatest strength lay.
The best part of David Clarke’s goalkeeping ability was his consistency. There was very rarely, if ever, a game where he had an off day. We can all have off moments during a game but his were minimal at best and even then, he had the confidence and composure to rectify them immediately. It is this consistency that won him his two All-Star awards.
To reach the absolute best of your ability you must be dedicated to becoming the best that you can be. Without that ‘want’ to become the best you can be, you will never achieve this goal.
Clarke was devoted to his craft and he worked tirelessly on his game to improve his goalkeeping ability with help from his goalkeeping coaches. A man that gave his all both at training and during games, he was meticulous in his preparation and made sure that he left no stone unturned in his quest for greatness. Never hungry for the limelight he went about his business with minimal fuss and ensured he performed to the levels that were expected of him.
In the 2006 season, my late father had the pleasure of working with David and Mayo as they won the Connacht Championship and reached the All-Ireland final where they lost to Kerry, which was the first final that he played in. That year they had what was quipped as the game/comeback of the century against a highly-rated, hotly-tipped Dublin team. And of course, the famous Hill-gate. ‘Beefer’ would always talk highly of David, especially his professionalism and the strong mindset that he had for a young goalkeeper just four years into his senior inter-county career.
I remember my Dad telling me back in 2006 to watch for David Clarke in the future, as he would become one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper in the game. And arguably, he wasn’t wrong!
My Dad had a great fondness for that team, and they gave him some fantastic memories that he cherished to his dying day. This is why I am in no doubt that the second he heard the news about David, he would have been onto his phone and spoke to the man to wish him well and relive the memories that they had together with the phone call rolling on into hours and not minutes.
For any goalkeeper that is picking up the position or has been playing it for some time, you would be hard pushed to find a better role model than David Clarke. It would be beneficial to go back and watch him during games to see how he operates. His coolness and calmness alone was a massive bonus to his Mayo teammates. There is nothing as important as having a goalkeeper that is confident in their own ability and can keep their composure under immense pressure. Clarke had this in spades, and it is part of the reason Mayo were so good.
I want to wish David well on his retirement, both from myself and my late father, and I would also like to thank him for the fantastic memories he help create for Daddy back in 2006.

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