McKernan chasing titles for Burren and Ireland
Kevin McKernan endured frustration this summer when Down were blasted out of the Ulster Championship by Armagh and then tumbled to Cork in round four of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Just a year previously McKernan’s powerful sorties out of defence had helped to bolster the Mourne County’s ambitious attacking strategy that took them all the way to an All-Ireland final meeting with Cork.
But if the 23-year-old electrician — he works in the family business — was forced to swallow bitter disappointments with James McCartan’s side, then a generous measure of compensation could be at hand.
Tomorrow McKernan, whose father Brendan won an All-Ireland medal as a tenacious defender with Down in 1991, will again anchor the Burren defence for the Down Senior Football Championship final against Clonduff at Pairc Esler, Newry.
And the former Abbey CBS pupil knows that victory would thrust his team into the Ulster Club Championship with their morale firmly boosted.
Into the bargain, McKernan — heading off to Australia with the International Rules team — could be on his way bearing yet another club honour and anticipating a helping of Ulster Club Championship action on his return.
The winners of tomorrow’s showdown are due to meet Fermanagh champions Roslea in the Ulster Club quarter-finals on October 30 but McKernan will be on International Rules duty in Australia and Burren, should they lift the Down crown, will seek a postponement of this match until November 13.
“My whole focus is on Clonduff. They have come through very strongly to reach the final but our aim is to retain the crown we won last year.
“We have prepared very hard for this game — back to back titles would be a massive fillip for our club,” says McKernan.
He is one of several seasoned players who will be in Burren’s line-up tomorrow.
Daniel McCartan, Eoin McCartan, Anto McArdle and James McGovern will all have key roles
Yet the absence of experienced campaigner Declan Rooney, so impressive in the club’s charge to glory last year, could be felt.
He damaged ligaments some weeks ago and is not expected to play again this term.
Clonduff will be buttressed by the impressive talents of Jason Brown, Aidan Carr, Arthur McConville and Darren O’Hagan.
This quartet were particularly prominent in the semi-final win over Kilcoo when Clonduff’s hard graft, stamina and marked spirit stood them in good stead, particularly in what was a tense finish.
As reigning champions, Burren are in pole position to retain their crown especially as they have been showing tremendous consistency this year despite having had a number of injuries.
Yet the manner in which unheralded Clonduff overcame Kilcoo emphasised that they will constitute a threat to Burren’s hopes of remaining on the Mourne County throne.
Burren manager Frank Dawson, aware that Clonduff have gained considerably in confidence, knows that his side face a stiff challenge.
Dawson saw his outfit edged out of the Ulster Club Championship last year by Crossmaglen Rangers by a solitary point after Burren had been eight points in arrears.
This time round he and his players appear to have their sights set rather higher than a county title.