'The lad marking David Bentley from Silverbridge tonight is not there for a pantomime'
Kernan eager to prove point in Sunderland swap as Tyrrell heads Stateside
Aaron Kernan is desperate to show professional soccer players that Gaelic footballers can hold their own with them when he arrives in the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
The former Armagh star and Kilkenny hurling giant Jackie Tyrrell are about to take part in an innovative television documentary called 'The Toughest Trade'' which will see them swap lives with professional athletes for a week.
Tyrrell, a big US sports fan, will be travelling to Florida in the next fortnight to train with a Major League baseball team, but Kernan is first into the fray.
He is going to train with Premier League side Sunderland in a swap with former Spurs and England footballer David Bentley and admitted yesterday that he feels duty-bound to make a good impression for his GAA colleagues.
"I hope to go over and give a good reflection of us," said the Crossmaglen star, who retired from inter-county football last winter.
"But I don't feel the pressure of it, I'm excited by it because I know the condition that everyone else is in and I know what I've put in this last 10 years."
The sports pros are being asked to undertake every aspect of the GAA players lives, including their day-jobs.
Bentley's arrival in Crossmaglen last Monday caused a big stir locally.
He went training immediately and was in Belfast yesterday working for Kernan's property company before returning for his second 8pm training session, and he is going to play in a challenge match tonight.
Kernan is not yet sure who he will be training with at Sunderland - "I doubt it will be the first team" - but will be immersed in every aspect of a player's life with a club whose CEO is Margaret Burns, an Armagh native from Dromintee.
"When I arrive I will get my kit, do a medical and a fitness test and then do whatever different training they're doing over the next few days," he explained.
"It's well documented how much we train and I'd always have liked to have seen how I'd test up against a professional player.
"I feel we've an extremely high standard of fitness and conditioning so this will tell. I could get my comeuppance this weekend!"
A huge debate blew up when Ireland international Stephen Hunt said GAA players wouldn't be able to cope with the lifestyle of a professional soccer player, and Kernan feels some people misinterpreted those comments.
"I think it was maybe taken a wee bit out of context," he said.
"The boys were saying that the spare time is something that David (Bentley) already mentioned.
"He couldn't go for a game of golf during the week because he wasn't allowed. He said there's very little that you can do (when not training), and that's along the lines of what Stephen was trying to he say.
"They demand that you rest where maybe we think they can go out and about, and do as they please once they finish training. Obviously that's not what happens."
Kernan is still playing club football. He recently took up rugby to stay fit and plays left wing for Dundalk RFC in the Leinster League.
He played soccer, at left -back, in Dundalk's underage academy alongside future Louth All Star Paddy Keenan and was also once part of a trial for Spurs in a group of Ulster U-13s played in Dungannon, but once he turned 15 it was all GAA.
Bentley, who lives in Marbella, retired from soccer in 2014, saying he had fallen out of love with the game, so it remains to be seen if GAA re-lights his fire.
Kernan's brothers were among the Cross players who welcomed Bentley to training - "typical pre-season, on the third pitch" - on Monday night.
"The bit of slagging started straight away, we have a few Arsenal supporters and just one token Tottenham supporter," Kernan said.
"Everybody tried to look after him and help him out but there was nothing staged about it, it was exactly what we are doing at the minute, particularly running, with a bit of ball-work to try help him out. He never backed away from anything."
Kernan expects neither himself or his counterpart to get an easy ride.
"You can be guaranteed that the lad who is marking him from Silverbridge tonight is not there for a pantomime, he doesn't want this man to come out and score 1-4 off him," he said.
"Sunderland are going to want to show that they're a professional club and it's not easy to be a professional. There's no frills or anything with it.
"I fully expect that they'll be trying to push me to the limits. That's a challenge but it's an exciting one because it's an opportunity that might never come across my path again."
Kernan was only approached about the swap a couple of weeks ago, and there will certainly be interest in how eight-time All-Ireland winner Tyrrell gets on at baseball.
He lined out against Cork in the Cats' league opener last weekend and could play against Dublin this week, but there is then a two-week break in the NHL that will allow him go to the States.
Former MLB catcher Brian Schneider is coming over to train with his Kilkenny club James Stephens and will also do Tyrrell's day-job as a sales rep for Glanbia.
The hour-long documentary will air on TV3 on Monday, March 9.