Poland wants Down trio to return

Marty Clarke and Mark Poland in action for the Mourne team in 2011

Marty Clarke and Mark Poland in action for the Mourne team in 2011

Mark Poland hopes absent trio Marty Clarke, Dan Gordon and Conor Laverty all return to boost Down’s chances of remaining in Division One.

The county are relegation favourites and face a difficult league opener at home to Donegal on Saturday night.

Benny Coulter is back after a one-year sabbatical, with the others yet to commit to the Mourne cause in 2016.

“The three boys have lots of quality and would only help Down football,” said the forward.

Clarke has not played inter-county football since 2011, subsequently rejoining AFL side Collingwood.

He returned home from Australia over a year ago after being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease and has yet to decide on his future plans with Down.

“You hear all the rumours,” added Poland.

“I’m from the same area as him and it seems to be a general topic of discussion around Down. You hear rumours he is coming back and that he isn’t.

“I haven’t spoken to him in a while but if I thought it was worth getting on to him, I would pick up the phone and give him a call.

“If I was a manager, I know I would be on to him.

Dan Gordon is a notable absentee from the Mourne squad ahead of the Football League campaign

“Down need all the best players playing and Marty is one of the best players in Down.

“It’s the same with big Dan Gordon. If he came back it would help Down football, but I honestly don’t know if he or Conor (Laverty) are coming on board.”

Poland revealed he almost quit after Down’s shock defeat to Wexford in last year’s All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.

The embarrassing defeat led to the departure of Jim McCorry as manager and Poland, one of the team’s stalwarts in recent seasons, admitted he contemplated retirement aged just 29.

“Wexford was one of the worst moments I’ve had in football but it was a knee-jerk reaction of my own (to consider retiring),” said Poland.

“I’m passionate about my county and want to see Down do well.

“There was a lot of ill-feeling abut Down football and people were saying things and it was annoying me.

“I don’t know whether it’s thickness or wanting to prove people wrong, but if fit I’m willing to be involved as long as Down want me.”

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