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Kernan looks back to move Armagh forward

By John Campbell

In the 10-year period from 1999 until 2008 Armagh remained a major force in gaelic football, a team that engendered fear and respect in almost equal measure as they pocketed Ulster titles with almost monotonous regularity and rubbed shoulders with Tyrone and Kerry at the top table.

 Prime goal: Aaron Kernan wants Armagh to be more consistent

And it’s the template that was established during that spell which must now be rediscovered and even enhanced if the Orchard County is to re-invent itself as a power base according to acting captain Aaron Kernan.

It was the cultured Crossmaglen Rangers wing-back who led the side to Division Two safety against Galway on Sunday in the absence of suspended captain Ciaran McKeever, and he now wants to see the team acquire the consistency and durability that were the hallmarks of their predecessors.

As the spotlight is turned on the Ulster Championship, Kernan’s call for greater commitment, passion and belief is currently echoing throughout the county.

“While it is very encouraging that we are to stay in Division Two because of our own performance against Galway and also because one or two other results went our way, the fact of the matter is we are not able to match the consistency and resilience that Armagh showed for some 10 years before this present team took shape,” said Kernan.

“We have to strive to get to that level. It’s only by doing this that we can become a major player again — we must recognise that other counties have moved on. There is a massive Ulster Championship game against Cavan looming next month and we would be extremely foolish indeed if we were to look further than that.”

But while Kernan is intent on seeing the bar remain high for Armagh, he nonetheless makes pertinent points in relation to the league campaign that will offer encouragement for the all-important voyage to Breffni Park.

“I honestly think that we were not that far away altogether from promotion. I think if we had got another couple of points along the way we could have been in the promotion hunt ourselves instead of going in against Galway under considerable pressure,” he said.

Injuries, suspensions and travel lust took their toll on Armagh during the league. But with skipper McKeever and Jamie Clarke due to return for Cavan, Kernan is optimistic that Armagh can reach a higher performance level.

“We will be working very hard between now and the date of our game against Cavan,” he said.

“Our manager Paul Grimley believes we can come good against them and so do the players themselves but they know they will have to expend an awful lot of effort in the meantime to get themselves right for the challenge.”

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