Joe Kernan (Gaelic footballer)

Joe Kernan
Personal information
Sport Gaelic football
Position Forward
Born (1954-04-08) 8 April 1954
Crossmaglen, County Armagh,
Northern Ireland
Nickname Big Joe
Years Club
1971–1988 Crossmaglen
Club titles
Armagh titles 5
Years County
1971–1987 Armagh
Inter-county titles
Ulster titles 3
All-Irelands 0
All Stars 2

Joe Kernan (born 8 April 1954) is a former sportsperson from County Armagh in Northern Ireland. He played Gaelic football with his local club Crossmaglen Rangers and with the Armagh senior inter-county team in the 1970s and 1980s. Awarded All Stars in 1977 and 1982, he is the former manager of Armagh's senior football team, and led them to the 2002 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship title, their first before retiring in July 2007 after the team lost to Derry.[1] He currently manages Ulster.

Early and private life

Joe Kernan was born in Dublin, in 1954. The second son in a family of three boys and two girls, his father died when he was just 11 years old and his mother died in late 2007. Kernan was educated locally and later boarded in Omeath and then attended the Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newry. Following his secondary education there were few employment prospects in Northern Ireland and Kernan considered emigrating to Australia where three of his siblings had already gone. In the end he decided to stay in Crossmaglen and in the 1980s he ran a bar in the town. He closed the pub in the early 1990s and currently works as a self-employed estate agent and mortgage broker. In December 1976 Joe married Patricia Morgan, in 1983 the first of their five sons was born, they are Stephen, Aaron, Tony, Paul & Ross. The four eldest boys are well known due to their successes in football with Crossmaglen Rangers and they are on the Armagh panel.

Playing career


Kernan played his club football with the Crossmaglen Rangers team and, in time, would become one of the most celebrated players with the club. He won five senior county championship titles between 1971 and 1988. Kernan retired from club football in 1988.


Kernan made his senior Armagh playing debut in a McKenna Cup game against Donegal in 1971. It took until 1977 for Kernan to have his first major success when he won his first Ulster title. Armagh later played Dublin in the All-Ireland final, however, in spite of Kernan scoring two goals, he still ended up on the losing side. Kernan earned an All-Star award for his performances that year.

In 1980 Kernan won another Ulster medal with Armagh, however, his side were later beaten by Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final. A third provincial medal was claimed by Kernan in 1982, however, Armagh fell at the All-Ireland semi-final stage once again. In spite of this he was still presented with a second All-Star award. Kernan continued playing until 1987 when he retired after an Ulster final defeat to Derry. It was his sixth provincial final appearance overall. Kernan also won two National Football League Division 2 in 1976 and 1979.

Managerial career

Joe Kernan
Club management
Years Club
1993–2000 Crossmaglen Rangers
Inter-county management
Years County
2001 – 2007
2009 – 2010
Inter-county titles
County League Province All-Ireland
Armagh 1 4 1

Crossmaglen Rangers (1)

In 1993 Kernan became manager of Crossmaglen Rangers. At the time Crossmaglen football was at an all-time low. Three years later in 1996, after the club had won four under-21 county titles in-a-row, Kernan guided the senior side to a first county championship in 11 years. Crossmaglen went on to claim the Ulster club title before defeating Knockmore to win the 1997 All-Ireland club title. In 1997 and 1998 Kernan guided Crossmaglen to two further county titles. The latter win was later converted into a second set of Ulster and All-Ireland titles. In 1999 Cross captured a fourth county title in-a-row as well as a second successive Ulster title. On St. Patricks Day, 2000 Kernan's side went on to win a third All-Ireland title in four years. Following this victory Kernan decided to retire from club management. He would later return in 2013.


In 1989 Kernan got a first taste of inter-county management when he served as assistant to the Armagh manager, Paddy Moriarty. After Armagh were beaten by the eventual Ulster champions in 1989, 1990 and 1991 Moriarty decided to resign as manager and Kernan also walked away.

In November 2001, Kernan was appointed manager of the Armagh senior football team.[2] No stone was left unturned in preparing the team.

Eight months later Kernan's side later went on to win the 2002 Ulster title. This win allowed them to advance to an All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Sligo, however, no Armagh team had won a championship game in Croke Park in twenty-five years. Kernan's side defeated Sligo after a replay before disposing of Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. At half-time during that match Kernan pulled the first of two famous stunts designed to inspire the team. He produced the old Armagh jersey that he wore in the 1977 All-Ireland final, and told his players that this would be their reward.

In the subsequent 2002 All-Ireland final, Kerry were leading Armagh at the interval. During his half-time speech he pulled the second of those famous stunts when he produced his runners-up plaque from the 1977 All-Ireland final and smashed it in the dressing room. Armagh later went on to defeat Kerry by a single point to win their first All-Ireland title ever.

In the 2003 Championship Armagh reached the All-Ireland final once again, however this time they were beaten by Tyrone.

Kernan's Armagh side recaptured the Ulster Senior Football Championship in 2004 against Donegal in the first ever Ulster final to be held at Croke Park.

In 2005 he guided the county to their first ever National League title, before successfully defending the Ulster Championship against Tyrone. The following year Armagh became the first team since the 1959–1961 Down side to win the Ulster Championship three years in a row.[2]

In Kernan's five seasons in charge, Armagh played 36 Championship games and lost just seven of them, winning 23 and drawing six.[2] The side never lost a Championship replay under him.[2]

His record as manager of Armagh is unequaled and he has confirmed his status as a legend as both a player and manager.


In August 2008, Kernan was announced the new manager of Ulster for the Railway Cup campaign.[3] He replaced Donegal man Brian McEniff who had held the role since 1982.[3]


In September 2009, Kernan was announced as the new manager of the Galway senior football team.[4] However, in August 2010, he resigned after a very unsuccessful year with the result of Galway getting knocked out of the championship early by being defeated by Wexford.

Crossmaglen Rangers (2)

On 27 March 2013, Kernan was reappointed manager of Crossmaglen Rangers.[5][6]


In late March 2015, Kernan was appointed manager of the Ireland international rules football team for the 2015 Series against Australia.[7]


  1. Setanta
  2. 1 2 3 4 Kernan calls it a day, Séamus Maloney, The Irish News, 19 July 2007, p. 56
  3. 1 2 Heaney, Paddy (30 August 2008). "Kernan takes Ulster reins". The Irish News. p. 74.
  4. "Kernan is new Galway boss". RTÉ Sport. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  5. "Former Armagh boss Joe Kernan returns to manage Crossmaglen". RTÉ Sport. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  6. "Joe Kernan back for a second stint as Crossmaglen football boss". BBC Sport. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  7. "Joe Kernan confirmed as Ireland's International Rules manager". Irish Times. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
Preceded by
John O'Mahony
All-Ireland Senior Football Final
winning manager

Succeeded by
Mickey Harte
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brian McAlinden & Brian Canavan
Armagh Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Peter McDonnell
Preceded by
Brian McEniff
Ulster Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Liam Sammon
Galway Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Tomás Ó Flatharta
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