Michael McKernan seizing his chance for Tyrone starting jersey
AT just 20 years of age, he’s the baby of the Tyrone team, but Michael McKernan is as sure-footed as the most accomplished of experienced defenders.
The constant evolution that has been a hallmark of the team for many years reaches out the hand of opportunity to anyone who possesses the necessary attributes and the will to grasp it.
The Coalisland clubman has seized his chance, nailing down a place ahead of several capable performers who have proved their worth at the highest level.
Another impressive display by the athletic McKernan at Portlaoise last weekend won him new admirers and applied a fresh layer of recognition to a growing reputation.
“You always want to challenge yourself and you want to try and take it to the next stage. As long as I keep performing, hopefully Mickey will be happy enough,” he said.
“You need to keep putting the effort in in training. If I’m not playing well, I know there’s always someone else ready to come in. the bench is strong and there’s plenty of quality, so you need to keep working hard.”
McKernan’s pace and decision-making make him the perfect fit for a Red Hand strategy built upon high grade security at the back and swift transition in numbers to attack.
He knows exactly when to stay and when to go, providing an effective link between defence and attack, and often taking on the responsibility of carrying deep into opposition territory, as he did frequently in setting up a number of scores against Cork.
And with each game, he has taken every possible lesson from a crash course in learning the finer detail of the game, playing a key role in Tyrone’s recovery through the Qualifiers following a first round Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan.
“All those games build character. When we got beaten by Monaghan we set ourselves new challenges, game by game through the Qualifiers, and luckily we have got through them all.”
Cork offered no more than token resistance in the final Qualifying game last weekend, capitulating at O’Moore as the Red Hands ran amok, crushing the Munster men by 3-20 to 0-13.
Also at Portlaoise, Roscommon turned on the style and attacking power in their thrilling win over Armagh, and McKernan is expecting a busy afternoon at Croke Park on Saturday as he faces up to a potent Rossies attack in the opening game in the Super 8s.
“Roscommon will go in with plenty of confidence after that win over Armagh, so it will be a tough one.
“They’ll take some watching, but hopefully we’ll get our tactics right on the day.”
And as Tyrone prepare to go again in a hectic s schedule that has seen them in action week after week in the searing heat of high summer, McKernan has no worries over their readiness for the latest challenge.
“It’s difficult, but we have Pete Donnelly in there, and he has us well trained in recovery and getting ourselves ready for the next game, however soon that might be.”