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Aaron Kernan: Bentley may not have received warm welcome in past

Paul Keane

AARON Kernan has hinted that David Bentley mightn't have been as welcome in Crossmaglen 20 years ago.

The former England soccer international is in south Armagh to play Gaelic football as part of a unique cross-code experiment.

Kernan, recently retired from the Armagh team, is moving in the opposite direction to train with Premier League side Sunderland. Bentley quit football at just 29 last October, claiming he'd fallen out of love with the game.

The father-of-three has various business interests but arrived in Crossmaglen on Monday night to give amateur sport a try.

Kernan said he happily explored Crossmaglen on foot, something that may have been risky in the past.

Asked if Bentley was informed of the area's history as a republican stronghold, Kernan said he wasn't sure but insisted these are "changed times" now. "He got stuck into it straight away - apparently as soon as he arrived on Monday he started walking around the streets, chatted to a few locals, went into the shops and that," he said.

"There's changed times. I know it mightn't have been that great for an Englishman walking around the streets 20 years ago but we've moved on well from that. "From a town and a locality point of view, we want to show the best of what Crossmaglen has to offer and how warm and welcoming we can be as a parish. "So that's been brilliant so far. To hear that he has enjoyed his first night with us and that there is that excitement around the town and the club is fantastic."

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