Tributes for keen sportsman who died in Tollymore Forest accident

Arnie Clarke (right) with Liverpool and Republic of Ireland footballer Jason McAteer in 2007
Arnie Clarke (right) with Liverpool and Republic of Ireland footballer Jason McAteer in 2007

Sports clubs in the Antrim area have paid glowing tributes to the keen sportsman who died following a tragedy at Tollymore Forest Park on Thursday.

Arnie Clarke is reported to have gotten into difficulties and drowned while trying to rescue a pet dog from a swollen river.

Police has said the 56-year-old’s sudden death is not being treated as suspicious.

Mr Clarke, a father of three, has been working for the Michelin company in France in recent years but was due to return to Northern Ireland on a permanent basis next year.

He was well known in sporting circles with connections to both Antrim FC and St Comgall’s GAA.

Former Antrim FC manager Gerard McAuley said: “Arnie played a lot of games for the club and was a tenacious battler in our midfield for a number of few years, he was a great trainer and all round club man.

“There was few harder midfielders in the BSML and he was always up for any challenge on and off the pitch.

“He did not like to be beat also on or off it.”

In a Facebook post, Mr McAuley added: “While living in France he would often ask about FC results.

“He will be missed by all who knew him! He was a football man a football supporter and loved Leeds United.”

A minutes silence is due to be held ahead of Antrim FC’s game on Saturday as a mark of respect.

A tribute on the Facebook page of St Comgall’s said: “It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart that I try and put a few words together about our very good friend Arnie Clarke.

“He came through the juvenile ranks at the club and was a senior by 17/18.

“Probably the smallest half back line with Paul Taggart and Alan Porter, but speed, fitness and tenacity seen them through.

“He never missed training and always loved a challenge both on and off the pitch, would back down to no-one from the day he got into the senior team.

“Arnie always loved the craic after the game was over, the boys would have went to Dunloy, Waterfoot ,Cushendall or wherever there was a bit of music on a Sunday night.”

The message went on to say: “Even now at 56 Arnie had always looked after himself and could be seen walking his beloved dog when he was home from France, only had a few more months to do with Michelin and he would have been home for good.

“RIP my good friend and friend of St Comgalls GAC.”