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Clarke impresses on Collingwood debut

Updated: Saturday, 23 Jun 2007 16:27

Martin Clarke made his first start in front of 64,222 in the Telstra Stadium
Martin Clarke made his first start in front of 64,222 in the Telstra Stadium

Down teenager Martin Clarke made a composed start to his AFL career today as he debuted for Collingwood in their 76-57 Premiership win over Sydney Swans at the Telstra Stadium.

Clarke made his bow in the Magpies' defence as a back pocket, chalking up 20 disposals and making five marks and four tackles.

A crowd of 64,222 watched Collingwood claim their eighth win of the season which sends them back into the top four.

Clarke's debut completes a year of incredible progress for him in the Aussie Rules game.

The 19-year-old only signed for Collingwood last August but his physical and footballing development, which has been helped by a stint with Collingwood's VFL affiliate side Williamstown, has greatly encouraged Magpies coach Mick Malthouse.

Malthouse said of his Irish recruit: 'Martin's ability to adapt to the game has been astonishing. He was widely regarded as one of the most skilful round-ball players in Ireland, and he's proving very adept with the oval ball as well.

'I don't think there has been a moment when I have seen him without a footy in his hands. He's a real character who, hopefully, will develop into a crowd favourite.'

Collingwood's national recruiting manager Derek Hine alerted the club to Clarke's talents after watching him play for St Louis Kilkeel in the MacRory Cup in 2005.

Admittedly helped this year by a series of injuries to key players in the Magpies squad, Clarke's promotion to the senior team saw him become the seventh Collingwood player to make his AFL debut this season.

Sydney's Kerry-born star Tadhg Kennelly missed out lining out against his countryman today due to a knee injury.

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