GAA Football

No talk of Ulster final until Crossmaglen get past Gweedore says Joe Kernan

Calling on people to support this year’s Chirtsmas Gifts campaign, Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland winning manager Joe Kernan was joined by his son, former Young Footballer of the Year Aaron, and grandson James (4) at their native Crossmaglen GAA club
Andy Watters

THERE’LL be no talk of the Ulster final or next year’s All-Ireland club series in Crossmaglen until the south Armagh men get past Gweedore on Sunday, says former player and manager Joe Kernan.

Cross take on the Donegal champions in Omagh for the first time since their 2006 Ulster club meeting and Kernan predicts that the Tir Chonaill men will be keen to avenge that 0-12 to 1-4 defeat.

“There’ll be nobody here talking about Ulster finals or All-Irelands – it’s just the next match,” said the 2002 Sam Maguire-winning manager.

“Gweedore have come through a tough Donegal championship, so they’ll be looking forward to it.

“We met them a few years ago and we had a win over them so they’ll be wanting to turn that around. For Cross, we know we can play better and we just hope we do.”

After 19 county titles in 20 years, Crossmaglen were relegated to the unfamiliar role of bystanders in 2016 and ’17 as Maghery and Armagh Harps reigned supreme in the Orchard county. But they carried all before them this year and saw off Tyrone champions Coalisland at the Ulster quarter-final stage.

“It was one of those games,” said Kernan, reflected on a two-point win for his club as both sides finished with 13 men.

“We have a very young squad – there’s 17 U21 players – and it was probably a new experience for a lot of them, not winning a county title the last few years and it was the first time they came up against something like this.

“It was high intensity and we didn’t play as well as we can, but we got a few scores late on, some great scores, that turned the game for us in our favour and we’re delighted to be in the semi-final now. Hopefully we can improve and we’ll be looking forward to it.”

Youngsters including full-forward Rian O’Neill and midfield pair Oisin O’Neill and Stephen Morris have impressed this season alongside experienced campaigners like Aaron and Tony Kernan, Johnny Hanratty, Rico Kelly and Kyle Carragher.

“There’s a good mix there,” said Kernan.

“The two O’Neills have been under that pressure from day one, from underage right the whole way through but they’ve coped.

“They were very disciplined last weekend in the heat of battle, which was good because sometimes you can lose it when you’re getting a bit of stick like that so they were well able to handle it.

“They’re growing in stature and they’re going to be two very important players for Crossmaglen and Armagh for the next 10 years hopefully.”

Meanwhile, Kernan, the former manager of the Ireland International Rules side, has poured cold water on Tomas O Se’s suggestion that GAA clubs should be compensated if they lose young players to Aussie Rules.

“We’re not professional and even though we put a lot of time into it, I suppose we don’t want to see anyone going away or the good players we have leaving,” he said.

“But these boys are amateurs and we’re always going to be amateurs. If they can go out and do something out in a different country and make a living for themselves who are we to say no?

“So, no, I wouldn’t be thinking of going down that road. I would just hope that, one, they wouldn’t go and that would solve all the problems. But if they do go we have to support them and wish them luck and hopefully watch them performing and hopefully they stay safe.

“The unfortunate thing is it is very physical and a lot of the boys that come back either retire early with injury or when they come back they’re never the same. That’s the only worry that I would have or the biggest worry.”

Joe Kernan was speaking to launch Trócaire’s ‘Gifts of Love’ Christmas campaign. Last year, people across the island of Ireland bought more than €765,000 worth of Trócaire gifts, which helped over 27,000 families throughout the developing world. To find out more visit www.trocaire.org/gifts

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