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I lost most of my county career due to crazy schedule: Kernan

By Declan Bogue

Aaron Kernan, the legendary Crossmaglen Rangers and Armagh defender, has voiced his frustration at how the fixtures overlap caused him to miss most of his inter-county career.

Since coming onto the Armagh panel in 2004, Kernan's involvement with his county was interrupted by club commitments, Crossmaglen winning Ulster in seven of his seasons as a county player.

That meant waiting until the semi-final was over in mid-February, or when Cross went on to the final in 2009, 2011 and 2012, only being available for one National League game after the club finals on St Patrick's Day.

Kernan, speaking at yesterday's launch of the Club Players Association of which he is a Grassroots Co-ordinator, said: "I love my club and I want to play for my club.

"I also wanted to play for my county. Some of my best friends in the county team were extremely frustrated with me because they wanted me to play for Armagh - but I wanted to play for Armagh too."

It sheds new light on the relationship between Armagh and Crossmaglen, often the subject of lazy speculation.

He continued on the difficulty of serving two masters, the situation caused by the club season overlapping into the next year in order to secure the increasingly-popular slot of St Patrick's Day.

"It's so hard to try and give everything, to win an All-Ireland with your club and still be trying to play a bit of inter-county. I just don't feel it works," he said.

"It's not even three or four games. You miss the first two league games, and the McKenna Cup, the whole of January and February and that's only for an All-Ireland semi-final.

"If you do well and win an All-Ireland, that's taking you onto the end of March. You get one game at the end of the National League and then you are only coming back in.

"You have missed out on pre-season. They have played the whole of February and March and you are coming in at the end of April having not seen these boys since you exited the championship in June, July, August.

"It was very, very tough and for seven of my 10 years I practically missed the National League. I didn't play that much county football, and I am done!"

He took the example of Dublin star Diarmuid Connolly, who is in a similar position as he waits to face Slaughtneil in the All-Ireland club semi-final in Newry on February 11.

"For him to play two games, he is going to miss three complete months of action for his county," Kernan pointed out.

"Are you trying to tell me that we can't find space to put that into one calendar year? To finish it out at the end of November and let him start again for Dublin, to play his league with Dublin.

"It can happen. It's there and it's manageable. But it takes a buy-in from everybody - club, county, college.

"Are we just going to accept that this is the way it is, it's never going to change?"

Belfast Telegraph

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