Clarke delighted to be making her mark

LAUREN Clarke has been a revelation with the Down camogs this season – and in an earlier interview with Gaelic Life, manager Derek Dunne says she has the potential to be the best player in Down.

The An Riocht girl started the season hoping to give it a go with the seconds team, but her confidence has grown in spades and she’s now lighting it up with the seniors.

Down are preparing to play Meath in this weekend’s All-Ireland Intermediate Championship semi-final, and Clarke is a safe bet to make the starting line-up after some outstanding performances against Derry and Laois.

Speaking to Gaelic Life in her first ever interview, Clarke said: “The whole plan was that I’d stick with the seconds team, but with the year that’s in it, I thought why not give it a go with the seniors.

I’d played at every age group with Down, but when I first entered the senior team I didn’t think I was ready.
I came back this year with the seconds team, which is in its first year, and then pushed onto the seniors.”

Key players like Niamh Mallon and Sara Louise Carr were on the top of their game against Laois on their last day out, while the likes of Fionnaula Carr and Paula O’Hagan need no introduction either. Clarke, who’s been lining out in the full-forward position, says the Carrs and co have been more than welcoming.

They’ve been brilliant to me. At the start it was a bit daunting, although I knew them a bit from playing club camogie.
The seconds had been training with the seniors so I was getting experience of being around them, and it’s pretty inspiring to be able to play with them really.”

Down are favourites for the All-Ireland Intermediate camogie title after the near-misses of the last few seasons – losing the 2018 final, and bowing out to eventual champions Westmeath by a point in 2019. Meath are tipping along nicely, however, with eye-catching wins against Kerry and Derry (albeit they did lose a game, against Antrim), so they’d be foolish to take the Royals for granted.

Meath will be tough, they’re a physical team with some really good players. I do think we’ve trained hard enough, hopefully we’ll be able to push on as it’d be great to get to the final.”

The future appears to be bright in Down. Lauren isn’t the only player having a breakthrough season, with the likes of teenager Ciara Cowan, Rhya Smith and the talented Erin Rafferty.

There are a few other girls from the seconds team who’ve come up to the senior ranks along with myself. There’s a couple of Clonduff girls and a few others as well. It probably helps push the older girls on a bit too.”

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