Former Down star Marty Clarke is to take up a part-time role with the AFL that will see him assist young Gaelic footballers in making the transition to Australian football.

Earlier this year, Clarke was part of an AFL Academy camp in Florida where Irish youngsters Peadar Ó Cofaigh-Byrne, Mark Keane, Anton Tohill and James Madden took part.

The Newry native, who had two spells in Australia with Collingwood, and played with Down in the 2010 All-Ireland final, will be part of a recruitment process that will now prioritise the search for players in Ireland.

Speaking on his new role, Clarke told The position will be an expansion of my role here of developing players who have been identified as potential AFL players.

"It will be up to me to meet the boys, maintain a relationship with them, conduct a couple of training sessions and watch game footage with them."

Mark Keane, Anton Tohill and James Madden

When it was put to Clarke about the unhappiness that many in the GAA feel about youngsters heading Down Under and the promise of a professional career, he added that any criticism is unwarranted.

"The statistics are there that the boys that go out to Australia are only a tiny percentage of registered GAA players, and in the last 30 years, there's only been 50 prospects come over," he explained.

"The vast majority of those boys have come back within three years and are bigger and better players for their clubs and counties.

"And AFL clubs know it's very high risk to take on an Irish boy, but the chance of getting a Zach Tuohy, Tadhg Kennelly, Jim Stynes and Pearce Hanley is a great temptation."