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Conundrum of Kernan's situation goes further than Crossmaglen

By Declan Bogue

For many years, the situation between the Armagh county team and Crossmaglen Rangers was tricky.

With the county team going nowhere in the mid-90s, Cross forged ahead to become the foremost club in the country with All-Ireland successes.

During that time, when players would have to wait until February and then March to complete their All-Ireland series, they had to be selfish.

While they remained in the Championship, the likes of John and Tony McEntee and Oisín McConville remained with the club.

Human nature being what it is, a little bit of inter-club jealousy would creep in.

Players who put in the long winter nights of running in muck and gutters became miffed at the Cross players waltzing back in late March, reclaiming their place in the starting line-up.

The only way around it, was to let nature take its course.

While bringing Crossmaglen Rangers to the summit was an incredible coaching achievement, such an ambitious man as Joe Kernan could not be tethered to a club job.

So when Brian McAlinden and Brian Canavan's time had naturally run its course, it ceased to be an issue.

His physical trainer John McCloskey would get to work with the cream of the county, and as a nod – unintentional or otherwise – to the north of the county, Paul Grimley came along as selector.

After Kernan left, it took until the winter of 2007 before Crossmaglen's season would stretch beyond February, therefore he had his best players to work with for the National League.

It is through Joe's sons, Aaron and Tony, that we can examine the current uncertainty surrounding the Armagh panel.

Kieran McGeeney – once Joe's gladiatorial captain – is now second-in-command to Paul Grimley.

The personnel has had a stir up, but Armagh's latest defeat to Monaghan when they were so comprehensively tactically trumped by Malachy O'Rourke and his backroom team on the line, leaves us in a limbo.

No-one is in greater limbo, however, than Aaron Kernan.

Universally accepted as one of the best players in the country, he had recovered sufficiently from his Achilles injury during the league to take a starting place for the final league game against Donegal.

Yet with a couple of months of training under his belt, he does not appear to be deemed fit for purpose by the Armagh management.

And although Tony Kernan has been top scorer in the two games against Monaghan, he only got on the field due to Kyle Carragher's early black card.

This week, former Armagh goalkeeper and Cross clubmate Paul Hearty commented: "Alright, I'm from Cross, but I thought it was a shock that he wasn't starting the first game never mind the last day out, because he has been flying fit the last few weeks.

"I know the effort all the Kernan boys put in, they're basically professional sportsmen who show incredible commitment to both Cross and Armagh.

"Around the town here in Cross, people were a bit shocked and annoyed that Aaron wasn't included."

Aaron himself was measured after the game and his substitute's contribution, stating his intention to work hard and stake his claim to get back into the starting team.

But on the evidence of his brief Championship performances this summer, it must be said that the shock of his non-inclusion extends much wider than Crossmaglen.

Belfast Telegraph


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