Ethan Rafferty hails the influence of Kernan brothers
Armagh utility player Ethan Rafferty has paid a glowing tribute to the Kernan brothers Tony and Aaron as he prepares to further bolster his growing reputation as one of the most consistent free-takers in the province in 2016.
Initially drafted into the Orchard County side at midfield but deployed more recently in attack, the Grange clubman has blossomed in the inter-county sphere with his ability to pot points from long-range underpinning his value to the side.
As he limbers up to assist UUJ in the Dr McKenna Cup before re-joining Armagh for their demanding Division Two league itinerary, Rafferty candidly admits that the much-decorated Kernan duo have played a big part in helping to fashion his career.
"When I started taking free-kicks, to be honest I was very apprehensive as it comes with high responsibility within any side," explained Rafferty.
"But I got great advice from Aaron Kernan and further help from his brother Tony, both of whom are recognised experts in this field, and thankfully this has helped my confidence and brought about a little consistency for me - something, I think, that all free-takers at whatever level strive for."
Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney clearly appreciates Rafferty's value to the side and with Cavan, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry looming in Division Two as well as Galway, Laois and Meath, 2002 All-Ireland winning skipper McGeeney obviously believes that Rafferty can step up to the mark when the heat is on.
Rafferty explained: "I just keep practising all the time. Indeed, since I was much younger I have always spent a lot of time taking frees but I never expected that I would be taking them at inter-county level.
"I generally tend to take the frees from the right hand side of the pitch as I am left-footed and with Tony Kernan in there you always know that he is going to miss very few so this helps to drive me on."
With Caolan Rafferty, Finian Moriarty, Stephen Harold and Jamie Clarke all ruled out of the league, McGeeney will be looking to players like Ethan Rafferty to set the tone for his team's performances in their bid to clinch promotion into Division One.
"We have lost several established players, that's true, but at the same time there is a lot of talent coming through," stressed Rafferty.
"You take a player like Stephen Sheridan who did not really get the break this year because he had a hand injury and there are others who are knocking on the door as well.
"There are boys now who could possibly make a breakthrough into the team and do a good job for us.
"Kieran McGeeney is very aware of the depth of talent there is within the county and I have no doubt at all that he will be prepared to give people their big chance."