Angus Kernohan 'home from home' in London and confident of making Ealing impact
RUNNERS-UP in the last three English Championship seasons, Ealing Trailfinders will be looking to prodigiously-talented Ulsterman Angus Kernohan to help them go one better and secure promotion to the top flight for the first time.
The 21-year-old signed for the London outfit recently, having left his native province after a frustrating season which saw him slip down the pecking order in the face of stiff competition on the wing.
But Kernohan is excited about his move to Ealing Trailfinders, who were formed in 1869 and have enjoyed a successful spell in English rugby's second tier, since their promotion from the National League five years ago.
Back home, the Ballymena man's talent was recognised after coming through the local Academy school as he played for Ireland U20s in 2018 and 2019, helping them to a Six Nations Grand Slam last year.
He made his senior Ulster debut in September 2018 and went on to play 18 times for the province in that season.
There were fewer opportunities for Kernohan in the abbreviated 2019/20 campaign as he played just three times for Ulster, starting once against Leinster at the RDS last December and scoring a try in that game.
Unusual though it may seem, he feels a sense of 'home from home' in London, and is confident he can make an impact at Ealing, who have generous financial backing through their owner, Mike Gooley, who heads up the Trailfinders travel company.
"It's been good to get over here. I'm living in a club house which is just beside the ground which is handy," he said.
"It's quite a suburban area with not too many tall buildings and I am living about a mile away from Ealing Broadway.
"The one thing I've noticed about Ealing is that there's a lot of green space about, lot of parks and trees and nice gardens so it's the best of both worlds really.
"You're close to the centre of London but you're also on the outskirts so it doesn't take you long to be in the middle of nowhere, so, as a Ballymena boy, it's quite a nice feeling to have that on your doorstep."
As far as the rugby goes, Kernohan has been getting used to the 'new normal' due to restrictions imposed on training due to the safety measures in place caused by the pandemic.
"The facilities and the set-up here are really impressive and I've been enjoying getting to know a new group of guys," he added.
"It's been a good, positive start for me even though the actual training has been a lot different to normal with the restrictions that have been in place due to the virus.
"We're currently in stage one [of return-to-play], so there has been very little ball transferring skills and it's been mostly individual, running and gym work, all socially distanced.
"It's a really strange way of doing things but it's just what we have to do at moment."
When Ealing came knocking on Kernohan's door, he had little hesitation in answering and putting a possible return to full-time academic life on hold although he is undertaking a part-time law degree via the Open University.
"I'd a few options and when I looked at what was happening at Ulster, I wasn't playing that often so I looked at different offers," he said.
"Whenever Ealing's came along I spoke to my agent Ian Humphreys and it seemed a very enticing offer in terms of the ambition and quality of it.
"Like most decisions I make, I chatted to my family, my dad and my girlfriend and the more I looked into the club, it felt like the right move for me.".
Kernohan is convinced Ealing can challenge for promotion once again although tradition confirms that the team that is relegated from the Premiership - mighty Saracens in the coming season - normally bounces straight back up
"We haven't sat down and talked about goals for the season in any formal manner but you can just tell from the way everyone is speaking, and how the coaches are describing things that is our number one goal," he said.
"Obviously, Saracens are going to be tough and there are other good teams in the Championship.
"But looking at the squad we have, and the ambition that you can feel within the club our number one goal will be to come first in the Championship and get that place in the Premiership.
"Mr Gooley, he has a good relationship with the coaches and that allows the ambition to be fuelled so, hopefully, we'll be able to do him proud.
"He has put a lot of effort and resources in and obviously a rugby club is not a cheap thing to run.
"The facilities and coaches are top class, so it's up to us to go out and perform and hopefully this season we are going to have good run."