Joe Kernan will forever be recognised in history as the man who led Armagh to the promised land, guiding the Orchard County to their one and only All-Ireland title in 2002.
Kernan, who played in and lost an All-Ireland final in 1977 to Dublin, is a legend in GAA circles for what he achieved both inside the white lines and patrolling it.
He guided his native Crossmaglen to their first All-Ireland title and kickstarted the clubs dominance over the Armagh Senior Championship that spanned two decades.
Speaking to Tony McGettigan on ‘The Time Out Podcast’, Kernan detailed the importance of belief and how he installed it in his sides.
He gained inspiration from a number of different teams, different sports and took advice from the likes of Sean Boylan and Mick O’Dwyer.
“I always admire other teams, let it be rugby, let it be soccer, let it be whatever. The Munster rugby team was a great example, they lost three Heineken Cup finals and went on and won two.
Manchester United, why did they always win matches in the last five minutes? It’s one of the things we got into or players, that you can play bad for 55 minutes and win it in the last five minutes”.
“We won more matches with Crossmaglen by a point, coming from behind, and Armagh a few years later”.
Kernan’s Armagh side were renowned for their top-quality attacking options, with game winners spread all across the forward unit.
“I had an old saying for the boys, ‘you play safe, you lose’. Manchester United never played it safe, and neither did we in Crossmaglen or Armagh for that few years I was with Armagh. We knew that if we finished strong every day, that’s when games are won and lost.
The team that plays safe and is in front, they take their foot off the pedal and they allow you to get them momentum. Their waiting for it to happen and when their waiting for it, why not do it. It works, it has worked and will work”.
Another theme of Kernan’s managerial career was pain, using the hurt of previous failures to spare teams on to success in the future.
After being handed the Armagh bainisteoir bib for the 2002 season, the Crossmaglen legend soon realised he had a team that was hurting.
“The thing about taking over that team, they were after been beating by the three All-Ireland winners in the two semi-finals and the quarter final by Galway in the last year (2001).
They were hurting big time. I keep going back to the hurt, if there’s not hurt, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they’re not going to give you anything”.
“When you’re hurting, there’s more in you and you know there’s more in them and if you can point them in the right direction, and you’re lucky enough to win a match along the way… We were ideally set up that year playing Tyrone in the first round of the championship”.