Kernan looks ahead to the “ultimate occasion”

As a player, these were the days Aaron Kernan dreamed of. A chance to show your worth against one of the best teams around. Kernan finished his Armagh career with four Ulster medals and played in the 2006 decider against Donegal.

All these years on, he’s still envious of the players that are lucky enough to pull on the orange and white . “Jimmy McGuiness, Donegal, the hype train,” said the recently retired Armagh and Crossmaglen legend.

“Clones will be packed. That’s all players want. That is the ultimate occasion that you want as a player. Whenever you’re the young kid who’s sitting in the Pat McGrane or the Gerry Arthur’s, that’s the day you want to be here in Clones.

“Your guarda escorts, the streets packed, the stadium full, that’s where you earn your corn. To me that’s ultimately where you always wanted to play. It just felt that’s where you earn the most respect once you pull on a county jersey to represent the county, perform but win.

“So, it’s an unbelievable time for those players. You’d be envious of them in terms of the build-up they have on that day to look forward to. But they’re the ones who put the time and effort in and they’ve earned their opportunity by getting back to another Ulster final.”

Jim McGuinness

On the subject of Jim McGuinness, Kernan believes that the Donegal manager “spooks a lot of people.” The Glenties clubman guided Donegal to All-Ireland glory in 2012, during his first stint in charge.

In that time, Donegal captured the Anglo Celt on three occasions. They also appeared in the showpiece four years in a row. A decade on and McGuinness is back in charge and has once again brought Donegal to a provincial decider.

I think McGuinness has this aura that he spooks a lot of people,” added the 2005 Young Player of the Year. “There’s going to be a lot of thinking that has to be done by the Armagh management team in terms of how they’re going to set up for an Ulster final.

“I think you look back at Donegal against Derry and they still only kicked 11 points. Granted they got the four goals, but I couldn’t see us being as naive and having the mindset or mentality that Derry had.”

As a player, these were the days Aaron Kernan dreamed of. A chance to show your worth against one of the best teams around.

Goals

Donegal didn’t hit the net in their extra time semi-final win over Tyrone, but there is always that lingering threat. Armagh did concede two majors against Down however, only the third and fourth goals put past Blaine Hughes all season.

“The two goals Down got will keep everybody very grounded,” explained Kernan. “Bar the Cork game we haven’t conceded a goal all year.

“So that’s something that (Ciaran) McKeever and Geezer will probably be delighted with. Because they can be on top of the boys now and say that’s not good enough. Whether it was just a simple track run or not getting a man stopped coming through the middle.

“We can’t afford that against a Donegal team because they could end up with three or four goals and that’s a tough day’s work trying to claw them back but it’s the perfect scenario. Learn your lessons and be an improved outfit for Sunday.”