ARMAGH defender Aaron Kernan is hopeful that the long-running search for a new senior football manager will be done and dusted within the next fortnight.
The post has remained vacant since Peter McDonnell stepped down – also in controversial circumstances – last July after two seasons in charge.
Paul Grimley had been the clear favourite for the role but his decision to join Seamus McEnaney in Monaghan prompted a statement from the players expressing their disappointment with the process.
A second committee has since been established with clubs again asked to nominate candidates. Crossmaglen manager Donal Murtagh and former Down boss Pete McGrath have both expressed an interest.
“You obviously would have liked to have seen it sorted out,” said Kernan yesterday. “You see other counties releasing names of new managers but it is getting there now. The county board have progressed things a bit more. Some of the more senior players have met with county board. They are in the middle of looking at a few more candidates and I would like to think that, within the next two weeks, we’ll have a new name there.
“We can’t train in November and December anyway so we probably aren’t missing out on too much but whoever the manager is would like to get his backroom team in place and set out his stall.
“It will be exciting, someone new to impress.”
A lot has been happening on Kernan’s own doorstep of late. Quite literally. It is only three weeks since Crossmaglen’s hopes of claiming a record 14th straight county title were ended by Pearse Óg at the quarter-final stage and the reverberations of that defeat are still being felt. Kernan talked of the shock young children felt at seeing a Cross team defeated in Armagh for the first time in their lives but the club’s successes at underage level don’t point to a dramatic descent in the club’s fortunes.
Youngsters like Jamie Clarke and Paul McKeown have already edged their way into the first-team and Kernan is hopeful that some of those to have already announced their retirements will have second thoughts.
John and Tony McEntee have already declared their intention to hang up their boots, as has John Donaldson, although there have been no such suggestions from Francie Bellew, Oisin McConville or Cathal Short.
“I know there has been a bit of a talk there of a few retirements but I’d like to think a couple of months of too much soap TV will make boys turn around in January and say ‘maybe we spoke too soon’.”
One man definitely emerging from retirement is Joe Kernan who, despite his protestations that he would never manage a county other than Armagh, has accepted the job with Galway.
Concerns over the amount of travel involved initially led his family to lean towards a rejection of the Galway approach but county sponsors Aer Arann stepped in to assure Kernan that he would be accommodated on their daily flights. With Kernan’s late mother a native of the county, that was enough.
“The family got behind him then. We said ‘give it a lash’ and if we meet them we meet them. We will be prepared for them. Obviously he just won’t be back in Crossmaglen that whole week.
“It is a bit early to be talking about possible All-Ireland quarter-finals or semi-finals but it has happened to other men. Brian McIver led Donegal against his own county Derry.”
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