Famous footsteps for Clarke
By Derek DavisBILLY Clarke will today follow in the footsteps of Irish sporting greats Roy Keane and Sonia O'Sullivan when he is named as one of the Irish Examiners National Junior Sports Stars for 2005.
By Derek Davis
BILLY Clarke will today follow in the footsteps of Irish sporting greats Roy Keane and Sonia O'Sullivan when he is named as one of the Irish Examiners National Junior Sports Stars for 2005.
The 18-year-old Blues striker was named among the 20 winners from different sports after excelling for the Blues Academy side and on the international stage with the Irish Under-19s when he scored twice against Italy and then again against Northern Ireland in a tournament in front of his home-town crowd in Cork.
He will pick up his award in a televised ceremony at Dublin's Berkeley Court Hotel along with the cream of young Irish talent from athletics, boxing, horse facing, golf, rugby, sailing, hurling and more.
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Clarke has made two first-team appearances for Town this season, after making his debut coming off the bench at Cardiff in November and starting at home in the 2-2 draw at home to QPR in December.
A dislocated elbow wrecked his chances of further involvement, but he is fit again now and Blues boss Joe Royle has tipped the prolific young striker to shine again in the first team soon.
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Royle said: “This is a terrific accolade for Billy and we are all delighted for him at the club. He joins a long list of top players who have previously won that award and he is capable of having a career as successful as all of them.
“Billy is a great kid on and off the pitch and he's very determined to succeed. He looks at me strange when I have talked about bringing in a new striker in the past although he is not quite ready to be a regular just yet.
“He has been unlucky with injury but I would not put it past him to be playing in the first team again before the season is over.”
Previous winners of the Irish Examiners awards read like a who's who of the republic's sporting greats. Damien Duff, and both Roy and Robbie Keane, have won the footballing category, with last year's winner Anthony Stokes a top Gunner at Arsenal's Academy.
Athlete Sonia O'Sullivan, rugby union star Gordon D'Arcy and jockey Ruby Walsh are among other leading winners.
Three of last year's category winners are listed again this year with golfer Rory McIlroy already playing on the European pro-tour, Katie Slader is preparing to compete for Ireland in the gymnastics in the Commonwealth Games and Joe Canning is lining up for Portumna, in the All-Ireland Hurling finals at Croke Park tomorrow.
Clarke joined the Ipswich Academy at 15, after playing his schoolboy football in Cork with Leeds AFC and Maymount Celtic, before going on to earn international honours at U-16, U-17 and U-18 levels.
Although interest was shown from Aston Villa, Leicester City, Manchester City, Southampton and Everton, Clarke joined the blues and was instrumental in helping them reach last season's FA Youth Cup final.
An injury in the semi-final against Spurs robbed him of a place in the final but that did not stop him joining in the celebrations - on crutches - after the win against Southampton while on crutches.