A new County Board. A new senior management team. A new era. The landscape of Galway ladies football though continued to change this week with the announcement that the county’s greatest ladies footballer, Annette Clarke, has confirmed her retirement from the inter-county game.
Captain of the victorious Galway team that won the county’s one and only All-Ireland senior football title in 2004, Kilkerrin/Clonberne native Clarke has won almost every honour in the game, including two All-Star awards in 2004 and 2013, during her 18 seasons in the maroon and white of the Tribeswomen.
“I had been thinking about it for a while. I suppose, for me, it is a good complaint that our club season has been so long, particularly the last two seasons, but I was playing for 11 months each of those years without a break.
“It is very hard for me to turn around again and go back into a county set-up. I am that bit older and I would prefer to keep myself fresh for the club,” says the City-based Garda, who has been instrumental in driving Kilkerrin/Clonberne to a hat-trick of county senior titles and two provincial crowns in recent years.
Despite her own club-mate Willie Ward taking over the Galway managerial hot seat from Kevin Reidy this year, she says she didn’t even look at taking a break for the National League and returning for the Championship.
“I had made my decision really and I know it is a hard one to make. You don’t know if it is the right one or not but I am that bit older and there are a lot of new, young players coming in and I am looking forward to watching those new players develop now.
“I have no complaints whatsoever. I enjoyed every minute wearing a Galway jersey and I am going to miss not doing it. It was a huge part of my life. I had 18 seasons where I would have played at that level and it is going to be a massive, massive change in my life.”
She will continue to line out for Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s seniors as they chase the elusive All-Ireland club title while the 30-something has also committed to getting involved with underage coaching in the club.
“A lot of people have been very good to me along the way between coaches and managements and I am just looking forward to maybe helping those younger players coming through and giving them those same chances as well.”
If Clarke, who is married to Kieran Collins, has one regret from her time with Galway, however, it is that she never added a National League medal to her collection, particularly after coming so close in 2015 when losing to Cork in a replay.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.