GAA Football

Crossmaglen stalwart Aaron Kernan defiant after Armagh SFC final loss to Clann Eireann

Crossmaglen lost Sunday's Armagh Championship final to Clann Eireann at the Athletic Grounds. Pic Philip Walsh
Andy Watters

CLANN Eireann’s victory in Sunday’s Armagh senior championship final has been hailed as good news for Gaelic football in the county and understandably so.

After two decades of Crossmaglen dominance, four clubs have won the Gerry Fagan Cup in the last six seasons and the increased competition and emergence of Lurgan’s Clann Eireann and north Armagh’s Maghery does augur well for Armagh’s prospects at inter-county level.

But Crossmaglen veteran Aaron Kernan insists that Sunday’s final defeat, the second in-a-row for his club, is not a case of ‘how the mighty have fallen’. He says the Rangers have plenty to be optimistic about.

“I wouldn’t remotely want to take anything away from Clann Eireann but the whole narrative is that they’re the coming team in Armagh and in fairness for Armagh football it is great,” said Kernan.

“They have a few boys that broke onto the Armagh senior panel this year but so have we. We won four of the last five minor championships – they’ve won one. Yet they’re the team that’s coming?

“From our young boys’ perspective my point is that their day will come too. The past two years have been very, very disappointing and not the norm when you’re growing up in Cross of what you think is going to happen on county final day.

“If we want to get back as county champions and back to the level that teams before us have got to we need to knuckle down.

“We can’t be pointing fingers, we can’t be apportioning blame to anyone else. It’s up to us as a group of players to change that and turn it around and we have some of the best young footballers in Armagh in our changingroom and they’ll be hurting now, there’s no doubt about it. I know the character of them, I know their families, I know the households they’re coming from and I’m sure they’ll react the right way.

“They’ll come back from this. We thought we were going to do it this year and it didn’t happen but that doesn’t mean that you down tools. You have to ramp things up a touch and come back again next year. 2022 is a clean slate for everyone again.”

Aaron, his brother Tony and defender James Morgan are the survivors from Crossmaglen’s last All-Ireland success in 2012. Those three and Paul Hughes, Oisin O’Neill and Callum Cumiskey were part of the Ulster title win in 2015 and Stephen Morris and Rian O’Neill have inter-county exposure under their belts.

The rest of the squad lacks experience and Aaron sees his role as helping to bring them through.

“This year I’ve had a real good run of it and I’ve enjoyed it and when you get to the stage I’m at you want to be training all the time, you want to be involved in games,” he said.

“You don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool and playing a bit-part. So, from that perspective, I have enjoyed it.

“Losing the final is a tough one but over the year as a whole I was more than happy to be involved with this group of young boys and try to help in any way that I can to bring them along as they are starting out their club careers for Crossmaglen because there always is expectation in Crossmaglen and there always will be.

“That brings a bit of pressure so if my job is to off-load a bit of that from the younger boys and let them go out and express themselves then so be it.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football