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Negative Joe Brolly not on the mark, says Down's Kevin McKernan

By Declan Bogue

Down star Kevin McKernan has disputed Joe Brolly's theory that current inter-county players are 'indentured slaves', and that their personal development is in some way at risk due to the commitment required to play at that level.

Answering Brolly's claims, McKernan said: "I have never agreed with anything more than what Kieran McGeeney said the other day. There is too much negativity from not just journalists, but people who have been out of the sport a wee while and all of a sudden they are looking in from the outside.

"They just want to be part of it again and they can't be."

Brolly stated that a number of unnamed players contacted him this week and he said: "They described a culture within county squads of control and fear… They described how rehearsal and repetition has made the game joyless. They are constantly tired. They suffer from dreadful boredom."

Saying that is not his experience, McKernan said: "I know at Down, we have a panel of 35, stretching to 40 and the numbers have been fantastic. Everyone is buying into it. At the minute you are living a dream, you are getting to represent your county. Whatever it takes you will do it.

"I don't think that it has gone to the proportions that people have blown it out to be at the moment."

The 27-year-old Burren clubman is an electrician by trade but is currently studying to be a teacher in St Mary's College.

He noted Bernard Brogan's comments mid-week about players picking jobs to suit their football commitments, but insists he is pursuing a career path that he always wanted to do.

While Brolly has claimed that a number of Crossmaglen players left the Armagh set-up after they could not stick the training regime, that was answered by Orchard county player Kevin Dyas who explained that the Cross contingent could not commit to county football for the year due to outside commitments and had not even been to a training session.

McKernan outlined the work Down are putting in.

"This past four years, you have been at pitch sessions on Tuesday and Thursday and a match on a Sunday. You were also doing your weights every other day," he said.

"But, everyone is doing that (in the game) and anyone who is looking after their health would be doing something most days.

"You can put that into any part of your day, you don't have to do it collectively. You might have to meet collectively once a week to do weights, but the rest you do it yourself.

"It gives you that flexibility that boys are not tied down to meeting at a certain place the same time, five, six times a week, which would be ridiculous."

McKernan also refutes any suggestion that this has stopped him living his life or hindered his personal development. He also feels the negative tone of the debate on how much time inter-county players should devote to his hobby could have lasting effects on the games.

"I feel at the minute with the way things are going, the way it is being publicised and the way it's being personalised, we will turn young ones away who want to play the sport they have grown up playing," said McKernan.

"I think if we are doing that, that's causing a very bad effect on what is going to happen down the line. What is going to happen is people might think that they couldn't be bothered putting their life on hold for three months of the winter.

"But when you get to June and July, you are more or less just on the pitch with the odd wee weights session here and there. The temperature could be up to 20 degrees.

"It's hard to visualise and put yourself in summer mode, but at the minute you're just building yourself up for three months of what you do in the summer, for Championship football," McKernan added.

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