Down looking up: McKernan
Down utility player Kevin McKernan is broadening his horizons on all fronts for 2014.
Having already qualified as an electrician, McKernan has done a smart about-turn by embarking on a course at St Mary's University College with an ambition to become a PE teacher.
This month he is assisting the west Belfast seat of learning in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup before returning to the Down squad for the Allianz League.
McKernan, whose father Brendan won an All-Ireland medal with Down in 1991, has so far been unable to follow in his footsteps but believes that James McCartan's side can make an impact in Division Two before embarking on their championship campaign.
His ability to play at either midfield or centre-half-back has made the 26-year-old Burren clubman a key cog in McCartan's line-up.
And having spent six years in the famous red and black jersey he feels it is time for the team to win silverware again.
"We have not won an Ulster title since 1994 and that is regarded as a very lengthy famine within the county," admits McKernan.
"We still have some experienced players out through injury or for other reasons but hopefully by the start of February we will have a better idea of where we are at."
In the meantime, McKernan will continue to underpin a St Mary's side that includes a number of emerging players among whom are Connor McMahon, a brother of Tyrone All-Ireland winners Joe and Justin McMahon.
Armagh duo Peter Carragher and Aidan Forker are also in the side while another Tyrone player, Thomas Canavan, a livewire in attack and a nephew of the legendary Peter Canavan.
And McKernan also finds himself alongside two of his Down colleagues in the Johnston brothers, Jerome and Ryan.
Down were relegated in 2013 and face the prospect of trying to haul themselves into the top bracket of the league again.
"It's a big challenge but we are ready. You want to be playing in the top tier, that's where you can really challenge yourself," he adds.