Welcome to the second in our three part series chatting to players in the run-up to our Allianz Division 3 Final next weekend.
We found Charlie Vernon to be reflective and enthused ahead of challenges ahead.
Charlie was able to pinpoint a range of highlights that he would like to add to. He recalled winning two Ulster championships in 2006 and 2008, winning the NFL Division 2 title in 2010, an U-21 Ulster championship success in 2007 and also the championship journey of 2013 was also memorable.
Unfortunately he has had plenty of low points in terms of defeats in big games and some of the injuries which he has picked up. He reflected how the injuries have caused a lot of heartache and frustration throughout my Armagh career. “Breaking my jaw a month before the championship in 2009 was very disappointing and breaking my foot twice in the one year in 2012 stand out as particularly bad days.”
Charlie continues to strive to perform to the highest of standards.
“Since I started playing I have always aspired to perform and be successful at the highest level and I don’t think that will ever change. I would have private goals that I set myself on a personal level and other goals which are collectively set with the team but it’s suffice to say that I aim to be the best that I can for as long as I can. Wherever that takes me who knows.”
The Armagh Harps clubman is generous with his praise for those who have helped him along the way in his career to date.
“I have been very fortunate to have had a number of very influential and inspirational people involved in my development, none more so than my parents and family who have been with me through all the good and bad days. It would be tough task to mention names of all the coaches and players that have had an influence on my development but from right through all my club coaches and managers at Armagh Harps, school teachers, Armagh underage coaches and senior management teams I have learnt something valuable from them all.”
Charlie is philosophical when rating the current squad.
“I have always believed that league and championship standings are hard to argue with. The facts are that we reached quarter finals last year and we will be in Division 2 next year so that is probably a fair reflection of our level at the minute. I think the current Armagh squad is full of very good footballers, who are ambitious and are putting in a huge effort to improve the current standing of the county. Like most counties, on our day we would feel we are able to compete with anybody but the challenge is to play at our highest level on a consistent basis.
It is and has always been an honour to wear the Armagh jersey. I recognise that we are in a privileged position to be able to pull on the Armagh jersey and represent our county. I suppose every county has its own unique history and development but it was always been instilled in us in Armagh that we received our jersey from previous generations and we are responsible for handing over the jersey to the next generation. Like all GAA teams when you play you represent who you are and where you are from. The structure of the GAA virtually guarantees that sense of pride in representing your family, parish, club, county
and province is present in all games. In that context I don’t think the meaning of wearing the jersey has changed much over the years.”
Thinking ahead to Saturday’s game and it’s value just before a championship campaign, Charlie adds:
“Players want to play games as opposed to training and the best preparation for playing football is actually playing competitive matches. We couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to prepare for championship than playing in a league final in Croke Park. The competitive edge to win silverware at Croke Park will mean the game will be like a championship match and a very valuable experience which we are all looking forward to.”
Charlie provides motivation for youngsters and the not so young that yearn to wear the County jersey.
“Be ambitious, dream big and then follow your dream. If you want something bad enough you need to be prepared to do what it takes to achieve it. Be on a constant mission to improve yourself and your skills. Ability will only take you so far, your attitude and application is what makes the difference between nearly doing it, and doing it. There are so many opportunities for young players to improve I would encourage them to seize those opportunities and not take them for granted. Persevere when setbacks come, don’t give up on your goals when it feels uncomfortable. You will have good days and loads of bad days, learn from both. Believe in yourself.”
Finally, if given the power, Charlie believes in some interesting changes that would improve the game.
“I think the county playing season could be condensed. The current training to matches ratio is unsustainable. This should also allow for increased participation by county players for their clubs.
A radical suggestion to playing rules would be to limit the number of defending players behind the 45m/65m line. A full back suggesting this may sound like a turkey voting for Christmas but it could improve the game as a whole. I have seen versions of this done successfully at underage through ‘Go Games’. The argument may be that it will be hard to implement for referees but surely that is better than games being hard to watch. My interest in soccer waned when I got fed up watching teams defend in large numbers and playing ‘keep ball’ in their own half. I hope the same doesn’t happen to Gaelic football.”