Aaron Kernan makes no secret of his desire to return to Armagh’s colours — but he hopes it won’t be until after St Patrick’s Day.
It’s then that the cultured Crossmaglen Rangers defender aims to be taking delivery of another All-Ireland honour at Croke Park.
But before then his Cross team must face the imposing challenge of Roscommon’s St Brigid’s in the semi-final on February 16 while Armagh will commence what will be an arduous campaign in Division Two of the Allianz League by travelling to Laois.
Kernan is one of a posse of Rangers players to whom county boss Paul Grimley will turn when their All-Ireland safari has terminated but given recent trends Grimley is not planning on having the welcome mat out until after March 17. But while Kernan and his Rangers colleagues will not be on active duty with the |Orchard County in the immediate future, their commitment has evoked praise from Grimley.
“We played two games in the McKenna Cup and the Crossmaglen Rangers contingent were with us in the dressing-room and I was delighted about that,” Grimley commented.
“It was great to have them on board and their presence was a source of encouragement to the younger players.”
Kernan, a senior citizen in both his club and county sides, believes that Armagh can take positives from their McKenna Cup campaign even though they fell to both Cavan and Down.
“In both games I thought the team showed a lot of character. There was a touch of defensive naivety that saw them concede five goals but I think there are foundations there on which Paul can build,” stated Kernan.
Like Grimley, he believes that the match against Laois on the weekend after next will be an important test for the team.
“It can be very hard to pick up league points on the road but I think that the team showed tremendous commitment in coming back against Down after they took a big lead.
“This shows that the players have courage and character and I have no doubt that if they can get off to a good start against Laois, then they won’t be far away,” added Kernan.
Johnny Hanratty, Paul McKeown, Jamie Clarke and James Morgan are among other Rangers players who will be welcomed enthusiastically into the Armagh fold when their club commitments are completed.
Morgan, a tenacious defender, is particularly anxious to nail down a place in the defence while McKeown could also merit selection in the county rearguard.
Hanratty forms a dynamic Rangers midfield partnership alongside skipper David McKenna and could provide Grimley with useful cover in this sector if Kieran Toner and James Lavery are to be his first-choice pairing.
And of course the enigmatic Clarke is seen by many as the cure for Armagh’s scoring ills but his many-sided talents will need to be complemented by the marksmanship of Stefan Forker, the accuracy of Michael Stevenson and the goal-poaching skills of Gavin McParland if the county is to have any chance of becoming a potent force.