Always one to get tongues wagging, Armagh’s Jamie Clarke knew his decision to temporarily leave inter-county football to cross the Atlantic would turn heads, but he doesn’t regret it one bit. In the latest, in-depth and refreshingly open Real Talks podcast, Jamie explains to Alan O’Mara how important his experience in the Big Apple was for him.
Sometimes we forget that the men and women who carry the hopes and expectations of their county are just that – men and women. Dedicated, young people who have given a large chunk of their lives to training, matches and more training.
Jamie Clarke is among others who recognize that their opportunity to travel and experience other cultures is just as limited as their playing career. What he reveals to Alan, intriguingly, is that while there is clearly a thirst for more travel, the time away also increased Clarke’s hunger for football at the highest level.
“Time away is great. It brought back that hunger and the realisation of what I really wanted,” says Clarke.
“When you’re part of that GAA circle and you have a mindset that I want to be successful and football and this is what I do, then it’s always going to pull at you. Ultimately it got me in the end.”
Opening your mind, to really look inside
During his interview, Jamie clearly gives the impression that he needed to experience new things to get away from the social norm, and what’s seen to be acceptable.
“For me personally, it took a lot of courage to do what I did, particularly with the likes of Cross and the club and stuff where it can be frowned upon. The media up North can tend to follow your life story so it was difficult in that regard, particularly for family and stuff.”
Jamie talks about how living in New York and meeting new people really took him out of his comfort zone. Removing himself from the “GAA bubble” really helped him open his mind away from home, but he’s also quick to highlight the importance of the Irish diaspora in helping him settle there.
The idea of being trapped is something a lot of people around the country can relate to. It’s people like Jamie who offer great insight into the benefits that broadening your mind and opening yourself to changing scenery can have.