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All Ireland Football Championship: McKernan hopeful of making Down's half-back line

By John Campbell

Down through the decades many outstanding individual players never had the opportunity to parade their skills on All-Ireland final day.

History is littered with fine performers who served their particular counties with considerable distinction but who were denied what is considered to be the ultimate experience for competitors.

It’s hardly surprising then that players like Down’s Kevin McKernan are immersed in the countdown to Sunday’s All-Ireland final.

A few weeks ago McKernan was not an automatic first-choice player in James McCartan’s side since Declan Rooney, James Colgan and Conor Garvey formed what appeared to be an established half-back line.

But when McCartan decided that McKernan’s more robust, adventurous style might just bring a further dimension to his rearguard, he handed the No 6 jersey to the Burren clubman.

It was in the semi-final victory over Kildare that McKernan, who works in his family’s electrical contracting business, turned in his best performance in the red and black jersey, powering in for two stunning first-half points before leading the resistance when the Lily Whites attempted to salvage the game in a frenetic last quarter.

Now this former Abbey CBS Newry Hogan Cup-winning skipper is relishing the prospect of pitting his considerable muscle and abundant skill against a Cork side that he believes will enter Sunday’s final with a major point to prove.

“I consider myself very fortunate to be where I am at this moment in time but I’m taking nothing for granted,” insists McKernan.

“Many great players never had the chance to play in an All-Ireland final and I’m just hoping I get handed a starting jersey on Sunday. It would be a dream come true for me but if I’m in the side, I know that it will be hard going against Cork who will feel that it’s now or never for them.”

Cork’s passionate ambition, their desire to make the cynics eat their words and their inherent pride will, McKernan reckons, cement their challenge.

“The important thing though is that Down win and maintain their wonderful record in finals,” says McKernan.

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