GAA Football

Armagh legend Joe Kernan bids a fond farewell to football management

Joe Kernan looks back his time on the sidelines in a special feature

FORMER Armagh and Crossmaglen manager Joe Kernan has officially announced his retirement from football management.

In a managerial career stretching back to the late 1980s, Kernan guided Crossmaglen to three All-Ireland titles and Armagh to the 2002 All-Ireland title as well as four provincial crowns.

He also spent a year with the Galway footballers in 2010.

In recent years, Kernan enjoyed managerial gigs with the Irish International Rules and Ulster Railway Cup teams. Now 63, Kernan is heavily involved at committee level at club Crossmaglen Rangers.

In the second of a two-part feature with the Armagh legend, Kernan insists there will be no more encores on the sidelines.

“It does tire you out,” said Kernan, whose last managerial position was with the Irish team in Australia last November.

“The adrenaline isn’t there now. To go back and manage on a full-time basis, the players would catch you out in two or three months because they know you’re not driven. Was it good while it lasted? It was.

“I’m very lucky to have been involved in the sport. I never thought I’d be a manager. I’d good times – both as a player and as a manager.”

Tony McEntee, who enjoyed huge success under Kernan at club and county level, believes that Armagh might have won more All-Ireland titles had his Crossmaglen club-mate taken the county reins earlier.

“In the early days, with a bit more confidence – and if Joe had been over us earlier – we could have beaten Kerry [in 2000] and won an All-Ireland and we could have beaten Galway [2001] and won that All-Ireland,” McEntee said.

“But we competed really well at the top level against good teams over a number of years.”

While reaching the Holy Grail by beating Kerry in the 2002 All-Ireland final, Kernan says the most emotionally-charged victory he experienced was overcoming the Dubs in the semi-finals that same summer.

“My wife, Patricia, always says the win over Dublin in ’02 was the most emotional day – even more so than the final – because we got to the final,” said Kernan.

“One of the best performances we gave was the following year against Dublin [Round Three of All-Ireland Qualifiers], when we had to go the back door, that was a real humdinger. It was hot and heavy.

“I remember Tony McEntee going for a ball and putting the boy into the front row of the Hogan. Tony soldiered up and down the field that day.

“Tony Mac was a class act. There are very few players on any team that can play full-back, centre half-back, midfield, centre half-forward, corner-forward or full-forward.

“Tony McEntee could play them all. He knew where to be. His positional sense was unbelievable.”

Arguably Kernan’s greatest strength as a manager was his planning, according to Armagh’s All-Ireland winning ‘keeper Benny Tierney.

“Joe was so meticulous,” said the Mullaghbawn man.

“He had thought everything through. He even went to the extent to what other people thought of us. We went down a couple of weeks before the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in 2002.

“Joe rang around for four of us to go in the car with him. We went into two pubs and we had two pints. Lo and behold, it was all round Dublin – ‘the Armagh team was out drinking’. Joe was wearing a pink, fluorescent shirt. We had the craic. That was how far he would go to gain an advantage.

“We would have stayed in the CityWest Hotel before big games. We knew exactly what we were going to eat, we’d stay in the same rooms, we have the same meetings at the same time, we went to mass at the same time.

“Everything was planned. And in those days, you have to remember, not everybody was doing this.

“Kerry were still coming up on the train.

“Joe and Paul Grimley were both very good. They complemented each other so well.”

The making of the legend that is Joe Kernan
Joe Kernan: A rich legacy that will outlive us all


Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football