Kernan, Frank

February 22, 2011
The Late Frank Kernan

The death of Frank Kernan of Urker House, Newry Road, Crossmaglen on Friday 11th February at the age of 79 speedily made its way into the local Rangers club and across his county, province and across Ireland, and made an equally strong reverberation into every corner of the sporting world of show jumping and horse breeding.

Such was his dominance as a sporting personality over many decades that it can be readily stated that no other son of this county achieved such all-round sporting fame or contributed so much to the wider national and international arena.

For a start, he belonged to the exclusive brotherhood of the 1953 Armagh team, the first senior team from the six counties to contest the All-Ireland final and arguably the first identifiable heroes of the nationalist people since partition.

Son of the late Frank and Ellen Kernan, he was educated at St Patrick's College, Armagh during their golden footballing era where he won two MacRory Cup medals along with Greg Blayney and John McKnight. He was won an All-Ireland minor medal with the Armagh team of 1949, advancing to the senior side a few years later and staking his claim to the left half back position for many years. He also represented Ulster in the Railway Cup on two seasons in the fifties.

As a player he was described as having a pair of safe hands and totally committed attitude in keeping with the Crossmaglen tradition, but ironically did not win his first Armagh Senior club medal until the early sixties at the end of almost fifteen years service with Rangers.

Frank Kernan came from a well known sporting background including his uncle Jamsey who tragically died following an incident in an Ulster championship game against Cavan in Belturbet in 1929. He is also, of course, a cousin of Armagh's celebrated former player and manager, Joe Kernan.

His son Frank (Hank) who predeceased him three years ago represented Armagh with distinction at minor and senior level winning Ulster senior medals in 1980 and 1982 and another son Peter Kernan played for Armagh and Crossmaglen.

But in terms of overall sporting fame it was his background in horse breeding that brought international sporting status. His father Frank was a horse dealer on the outskirts of Crossmaglen and owned land o the Newry Road, He inherited this love of the horses and through many years endeavour and with his famous and celebrated son James, an Irish show jumping champion and daughters Shirley and Ellen, made a huge world wide impact in show jumping and horse breeding.

A supreme achievement occurred at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich when his trained horse "Ambassador" was ridden to a gold medal and later at Wembley when another Kernan bred horse "Top of the Morning" won the Foxhunter trophy.

Frank toured the world of horses from the Pampas of Argentina to the arenas of Europe with riders and teams from Germany. Italy, Spain, Britain and a host of other countries as his international stars continued to shine.

Far into the time to come he will remain a source of pride to his club, county and country, having served each with distinction, a sporting icon and personality in Ireland, a dedicated family man and one who used his talents to the utmost and left us all a rare legacy.

The funeral mass took place on Monday at St Patricks Church in Crossmaglen. To his wife Imelda, sons James, Peter and John, daughters Shirley and Helen we extend condolences at this time.

Courtesy of the Armagh Examiner
22nd February 2011

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