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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 5 August, 2020

Trying to plan a wedding in Crossmaglen seems like an absolute nightmare

Serial Ulster champion Tony Kernan is eyeing up another All-Ireland medal for his mantelpiece with Crossmaglen.

Kernan: "We've our work cut out against Castlebar."
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

IT SOUNDS LIKE you would be hard pushed to find a free day around Christmas time in Crossmaglen.

On top of all of the usual festivities, you can nearly be sure that there will be a wedding or two.

After all, when you’re in the habit of winning county titles and then Ulster titles, there’s only so much time to wedge in the biggest day of your life before you’ve to get back down to training for the All-Ireland series.

It’s not presumptuous, explains the recently-wed Tony Kernan; it’s just smart planning.

He should know. His brother Aaron carefully checked the fixture list before arranging his own wedding around Cross’s All-Ireland title defence in 2011/2012.

And even though the Armagh kingpins have lost some of their lustre in the last few seasons — Cross didn’t win a game in the Ulster championship in 2013 or 2014 — it had to be 28 December for Tony.

“I think it’s just trying to fit it in,” he explains.

“You’re sort of planning 12 months in advance, and we didn’t think in our wildest dreams — the way we had been going — that I was going to be in an Ulster club final and an All-Ireland semi-final.

But you sort of have it in the back of your head and you’d kind of like to be there. So yeah, the wedding was planned, hoping that we would be at this stage.

January honeymoons tend to be a little bit different with an All-Ireland semi-final on the horizon but when your wife is also an inter-county footballer — Armagh’s Sinéad McCleary — you don’t have to look far for a gym buddy.

“I missed January. I was in Australia and Thailand. I kept training and doing a bit of running whenever I was over there, and the boys were playing games and training at home.

“We’ll see [this] week whether or not it was a good thing to go away!”

“[Sinéad] kept me on my toes, and we did a wee bit of running together or an odd gym session together. So it worked out quite well.”

Remarkably, November’s hard-fought win against Scotstown was Kernan’s seventh provincial medal and one which, he admits, had seemed so elusive for the last few years as Cross’s dominance started to crack.

“We thought maybe the amount of Ulster clubs and All-Irelands we had, that was going to be our lot and we’d look back at that whenever we retired.

“But midway through the Armagh championship we brought in eight minors from our minor team, and they completely lifted the whole atmosphere around the camp.

There was an enthusiasm about training, and it started to become fun again, and we were laughing and joking and the craic was back in the dressing-room, and the extra numbers helped, and then it helped that the boys were able to play football.

“Then we went on afterwards, we won the Ulster club and they won the Ulster minor so they’ve really been a huge lift to us and probably the main reason why we’re in an All-Ireland semi-final.”

Now they are two wins away from another All-Ireland — their seventh in total, matching record holders Nemo Rangers — but Kernan isn’t looking beyond Saturday’s date with a dangerous Castlebar Mitchels side.

“I would believe that we’ve got to where we’ve got to by looking at the game in front of you. Winning an All-Ireland, for us at the minute, is a long way off.

We’ve our work cut out against Castlebar, and you’ve got to play the game in front of you – or else, if you look too far ahead, you go home with your tail between your legs.

“So we’re focused on [this weekend] and we need to try and get back to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, and we’ll address that record if we get to an All-Ireland final.

“But at the minute it’s Castlebar and it’s the next game in front of us.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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