Aaron Kernan was 'fit to keep going' but has no regrets about inter-county retirement

The ex-Armagh star says he questioned himself after being dropped to the bench last year.

Kernan: "I was thinking maybe I wasn't the player I was..."
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

HE ADMITS THAT he’d still be involved with Armagh ‘in an ideal world’, but Aaron Kernan has been enjoying life as a footballer without the demands of inter-county commitment.

Kernan, who recently turned 31, announced his retirement from inter-county football last October. He’s been filling the void by devoting his new-found spare time to his family and the property letting company he owns.

After ten seasons with Armagh at senior level, not being involved with the panel this season has taken some getting used to. But he’s getting there, and some TV punditry work with Setanta Sports has helped to make the transition easier.

“It is strange,” Kernan admits. “I’m kept busy obviously with work, starting back with the club and then the media duties. I think what I’ve probably found, to my detriment so far, is that I’ve said yes to everybody and you continue to go at 100 miles an hour, so somewhere along the line I’m going to have to pull back a wee bit.”

If he’s struggling to refuse offers at the moment, it might be a good time for Kieran McGeeney to pick up the phone and suggest a comeback. However, it’s a decision Kernan seems glad that he made. Although if circumstances were different, he wouldn’t have had to make the call.

When asked if he’d still be appearing in an Armagh shirt this season ‘in an ideal world’, Kernan said: “Yeah. Physically I would have felt another two, three years, that I was fit to keep going and I wasn’t slowing up or that my legs had gone or anything like that.

“It was just the bigger picture in life. I just felt that I really wanted to get stuck into something else that was going to take up more of my time as well. From a work point of view, I’m enjoying it because I know I’ve made a big sacrifice now and I have to make it work.

Aaron Kernan Kernan was Young Footballer of the Year in 2005, his debut season with Armagh. Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

“I’m definitely not the first person who’s played inter-county football and has a kid, but just getting to see him a bit more, where maybe I wouldn’t have had the same time if I was involved in county. It’s just more time consuming so from a family point of view definitely it’s something I’m really enjoying.

“Aaron’s not number one anymore. It coincides with Armagh maybe starting to come good again and people think, what are you walking away from that for?

“But for me it was always about the bigger picture. It wasn’t something that had been building in my head just for a few months. It’s been coming for a few years.”

Kernan found himself among the Armagh substitutes at times in 2014, but he insists that didn’t contribute to his decision to walk away — particularly given that he regained his place and was impressive in the championship games against Meath and Donegal.

“Not really, because I felt I proved myself when I got the opportunity to start in the Meath and Donegal games. One of the best games I’ve enjoyed in a long time was the Donegal game, even though we lost it.

“Was it frustrating? Absolutely. It took a lot of getting used to. Did I soul search? I did, yeah. I was thinking maybe I wasn’t the player I was and I started doubting in my own head that my legs had gone. I definitely did.

“My options were, listen to the voice in my head and think that’s reality and start feeling sorry for myself and slip away, or come out fighting, go prove every night, make it as difficult as possible for them men to drop me or keep me off the next day. That’s the path I chose to go down.

“It was always about the team too. I could have huffed and said I was here a certain amount of time or whatever, but that’s irrelevant. For me, I had to prove myself again and it was probably motivation for me to go out and do that.”

An hour-long documentary that will feature Aaron Kernan training with Premier League club Sunderland, ‘The Toughest Trade’ will air on TV3 on Monday, 9 March, at 10pm.

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