At the tender age of 20, he’s the baby of the Tyrone team, but Michael McKernan is as sure-footed as the most accomplished of experienced defenders.
The constant evolution that has been a hallmark of the team for many years reaches out the hand of opportunity to anyone who possesses the necessary attributes and the will to grasp it.
McKernan has seized his chance.
Another impressive display by the athletic McKernan at Portlaoise last weekend won him new admirers and applied a fresh layer of recognition to a growing reputation.
McKernan’s pace and decision-making make him the perfect fit for a Tyrone strategy built upon swift transition in numbers to attack.
He knows exactly when to stay and when to go, often taking on the responsibility of carrying deep into opposition territory, as he did frequently in setting up a number of scores against Cork.
He has played a key role in Tyrone’s recovery through the qualifiers following a first round Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan.
Cork offered no more than token resistance in the final qualifying game last weekend, capitulating at O’Moore Park as the Red Hands ran amok, winning 3-20 to 0-13.
Also at Portlaoise, Roscommon turned on the style and attacking power in their thrilling win over Armagh, and McKernan is expecting a busy afternoon at Croke Park on Saturday as he faces up to a potent Rossies attack in the opening game in the Super 8s.
“Roscommon will go in with plenty of confidence after that win over Armagh, so it will be a tough one.”
And as Tyrone prepare to go again in a hectic schedule that has seen them in action week after week in the searing heat of high summer, McKernan has no worries over their readiness for the latest challenge.
“It’s difficult, but we have Pete Donnelly in there, and he has us well trained in recovery and getting ourselves ready for the next game, however soon that might be.”