Patience is key to success says Crossmaglen ace Aaron Kernan
Long-serving Crossmaglen Rangers ace Aaron Kernan has urged players throughout the country to exercise more patience in their bid to make an impact in club and county squads.
Kernan, currently preparing for his team's Ulster Club Championship final against Monaghan title-holders Scotstown on Sunday, shares the concerns of many top-ranking GAA officials at the ongoing loss of playing talent.
And even though he now possesses 12 Armagh Championship medals, seven Ulster Club gongs and three All-Ireland Club honours, Kernan has not forgotten the battle he fought to make his way into the Rangers squad.
"I was called well over 12 years ago but I had to kick my heels on the bench for about three years before I saw any real action," recalled Kernan.
"It was frustrating but there were a lot of good players in the squad then just as there are now and it was a question of having to wait your turn.
"I just kept working hard in training and kept my fingers crossed that I might get a break and thankfully my patience was rewarded in the end."
Having called time on his county career with Armagh in 2013, Kernan is even more engrossed in the activities of Crossmaglen Rangers and is acutely aware of the difficulties that clubs and counties now encounter as they bid to retain their playing personnel.
It was former GAA President Liam O'Neill who famously declared that "the GAA does not own its players" and Kernan believes that this observation has considerable resonance just now.
"Players may feel unable to give commitment to their club or county because they may want to travel, focus on their studies or job or perhaps even turn to another sport," reflected Kernan.
"We are all amateurs and as such we have the right to make our own choices. But it can be depressing that players are drifting away from squads because they feel they are not getting enough game-time or personality clashes with management.
"This is always going to happen but I would urge players to show patience and continue to have belief in themselves.
"We have boys in the Crossmaglen side who have waited to get their chance and now they find themselves 60 minutes away from an Ulster Club medal.
"If we manage to win on Sunday, they and the rest of us will feel that any sacrifices will be well worthwhile."
Down and Antrim are two counties which have lost key players in recent times - the Saffrons must do without Tony Scullion and Michael Pollock - while Armagh will start 2016 without Caolan Rafferty, Steven Harold and Finian Moriarty.
"You are always going to have players retiring or calling it a day for family reasons but anyone's playing career can be relatively short in the greater scheme of things and it's better to enjoy it while you can. There is no substitute for playing," maintained Kernan.
Ironically, it's another All-Ireland title-winning Ulster club that is setting a new benchmark in terms of career longevity.
No fewer than six of the Ballinderry team that won the All-Ireland Club title in 2002 have pledged themselves to the cause again for next season.
James Conway, Conleith Gilligan, Enda Muldoon, Kevin 'Moss' McGuckin, Michael Conlan and Kevin Patrick McGuckin are ready to immerse themselves in what club spokesman Cillian Conlan describes as "one massive push" for the Derry Championship title.
Conlan said: "The fact that these boys are prepared to put their shoulder to the wheel for at least another year is a great boost. You can't buy experience and these lads have it in spades."
His endorsement is shared by Kernan, who points to the platoon of veterans within the current Crossmaglen side.
"We have players like Paul Hearty, Tony Kernan, Martin Ahern, Michael McNamee, Johnny Hanratty, Stephen Kernan and David McKenna who have been round the block a few times and they can help to set the tone," stressed Kernan.
"Experience is vital when it comes to playing in finals in particular and we think that we are suitably armed in this context."