Joe Kernan excited by Armagh start to the season and expects Tyrone pride to kick in
ARMAGH supporters should keep their feet on the ground, warns Joe Kernan, but he does see similarities between this year’s Orchard crop and the team he took to All-Ireland glory two decades ago.
It’s early days of course, but the cutting edge and workrate Armagh have displayed so far this season has rekindled memories of Kernan’s sides from 2002 onwards.
Now managed by Kieran McGeeney, skipper during that golden era, the Orchardmen kicked off their National League campaign with commanding wins over the last two All-Ireland champions – Dublin in the first round and Tyrone in the second.
“There seems to be a hunger and a sharpness about them,” said Kernan.
“There’s a better balance to the team and we have any number of scoring-forwards and scores win matches. There is a workrate and a hunger that seems to be there but I know it’s early and Geezer has rightly said so and warned people not to be getting carried away.
“The League is preparation for the Championship but there is good preparation and bad preparation and this preparation is spot on. It has given confidence to everybody and nothing beats winning matches – playing with confidence is a very important part of any team and now it’s about putting that consistency together game after game.
“What they’ve done so far has been brilliant. Can they do more? Can they better it? Of course they can but we all need to keep our feet on the ground and let them do their job.”
It’s 20 years now since Kernan inherited an Armagh side that had been knocking on the door for an All-Ireland title. He propelled them to the Sam Maguire in his first season and Armagh began the following year with a four-game winning streak in the National League and reached the semi-finals of the competition.
Although they fell at the first hurdle in Ulster, the Orchardmen recovered through the back door to reach the All-Ireland final once again but Tyrone denied them back-to-back titles.
Tyrone have made an uncertain start to 2022 after their Sam Maguire success last year but Kernan expects the Red Hand pride to “kick in” as this season unfolds.
“It takes a while and injuries had a part to play for us at the start of the next year because we were missing quite a few for the Monaghan match,” said the Crossmaglen native.
“It does take a bit of time to get you going again but probably a couple of games will bring Tyrone on and their own pride will kick in and you’ll see a different Tyrone team from here on.
“Things are never the same as they were the year after you’ve gone out and won something - you try and better it but it’s very hard.
“In 2002 everybody was singing off the one hymn sheet and we stuck together. The boys wanted to win an All-Ireland after three years of getting close and being beaten by teams that went on to win it. That hurt was there and that hurt could only be got rid of by winning.”