Back to the future

April 1, 2013

My, how time flies as it is hard to believe that two decades have passed since Joe Kernan took over as Crossmaglen Rangers manager. The announcement that Armagh’s most successful manager is coming back for a second stint in charge of his club team has not caused any real surprise amongst football supporters as it was always expected that at some stage  “Big Joe “ a clubman truew and true would answer the call when it came.

Back in 1993, it was bleak times for Cross when Joe took over the reins but following a barren two years he then set the foundation stone upon which the legacy of ‘the best club side ever” has been built. Ambitious, futuristic and professional to the last, Joe, could not have envisaged that his home club could consistently scale the heights of club football for such a sustained period.

Under his initial guidance Crossmaglen Rangers won their first Armagh title in 10 years which began a sequence of 13 County titles in a row. Rangers became the youngest club team ever to win the All-Ireland Club title in 1997 and then Joe led them to back-to-back All-Irelands in 1999 and 2000.

Like Joe, all Rangers managers since his first tenure in charge have been clubmen and have maintained the high standards that he set in place. Since he was last in charge of Cross, the obituaries had been penned twice with regards to the clubs demise. Cross suffered a couple of defeats, and had lost a lot of their ever presents, but Rangers bounced back in remarkable style.

Expectancy has never been higher in the Rangers camp and even the pressure that goes with that has not stopped Joe from taking the reins. The dreams of an unprecedented three-in-a-row of All-Ireland club titles have been shattered by the new champions St Brigid’s and talisman for so long Oisin McConville has hung up the boots but Cross are far from a spent force.

Joe has inherited a very formidable squad in which his four sons form a key part. There is a lot of young talent on the bench for Cross at his disposal which brings back to mind the famous quote from another code “you will win nothing with kids”.  Joe has done it before and will relish the even bigger challenge he faces over 20 years later and has a wealth of home grown experience from which to choose his backroom team.