Armaghgaa.net exclusively caught up with Crossmaglen Rangers’ Tony Kernan this week in the run-up to their mouthwatering Ulster Senior Football Quarter-Final clash with newly-crowned Antrim champions Cargin.
Crossmaglen’s preparations have been focused solely on their opponents for Sunday, as Tony explained.
Beating Kilcoo three years ago in the Provincial Final “is the last game we have managed to win outside of Armagh, so I guess that is what our focus is now. To try and win a game in Ulster, if we achieve that then we will look at it again on Monday morning.
At times in the past we have been guilty of looking too far down the line and various opponents have been able to take advantage of that.
As soon as we won the Armagh Championship we all agreed that not winning a game outside of Armagh since 2012 was a stat which we weren’t particularly proud of, so our focus immediately changed to the Antrim County Final to see who our opponents would be.”
Interested parties from around the country would have been looking towards St.Gall’s to continue their amazing run of successive Antrim titles. But Tony and his colleagues have a knowledge of their achievements this year and achnowledge that they will provide a sizeable challenge in the Athletic Grounds.
“Living and working in Belfast means that I know quite a bit about Cargin. I went to University with a couple of them and I have some work colleagues from Cargin.
There was a huge buzz around Cargin after they beat St Gall’s, by the time they won the County Final it seemed like it was almost a sense of relief.
It is being portrayed that Cargin have achieved what they wanted to get out of 2015 and that they almost have a ‘free shot’ on Sunday.
That type of opponent can be very dangerous,” Tony stressed.
Crossmaglen continue to produce the goods year after year, Tony pinpointed some of the motivational factors behind their unique success.
“We all see it as a huge honour to be able to represent our club, we want to be a team that makes our family and parish proud to support and follow.
There is always somebody different within the squad pushing or providing another reason for us to be successful.
We had 8 young boys join us after the Minor Championship, they have really lifted the entire atmosphere around training and the changing rooms. They have been a breath of fresh air.
We needed that boost of energy into the squad, the senior players were all determined to make sure we did whatever we could to ensure those young boys picked up their first County Medal this year.”
Finally, Tony reflected on his personal and team preparations in the immediacy of a big game and over the course of the season.
“I have a weekend full of special preparations that annoy the hell out of everybody around me, but they allow me to drift from one thing to another and not spend too much time thinking and building up nervous energy before a game.
I usually start on a Saturday morning making sure my boots are clean and all my gear is sat out neatly.
Then I just drift from one thing to the next until we are ready to hit the pitch in the Athletic Grounds.
I know quite a few people who ran the Dublin Marathon on Monday past and each of them have had a pretty tough and lonely 6 months in terms of preparation for it.
I don’t believe training and diet is ever an issue for anyone remotely sporty.
What makes things difficult in any team sport is getting 30/40 people to train at the same time and in the same place. Travelling and the amount of your headspace required to compete at this level are the demands which challenge me.
Having a balanced life is difficult. You need to have an understanding partner, family, friends and employer in order to be able to perform on the pitch.”
Crossmaglen Rangers against Cargin throws in at 2:30pm on Sunday afternoon in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
It promises to be a game of huge interest throughout the province and beyond, so get there early!
If you are unable to get to the game or are overseas, you can catch the game live on Linwoods Armagh TV.