Possessor of "blinding speed, perfect ball control and a powerful shot" he had all the attributes for the complete forward. At seventeen he was selected for the Irish League for an inter-league clash with the Football League, facing the likes of Raich Carter and Frank Swift in an historic 2-1 win. A year later he collected his first full cap, again marking the occasion with a goal in a 3-2 win over Wales.
Although often linked with moves to English football, Kernaghan had no desire to leave his native Belfast: "I didn't want to go away. I wanted to be here with my family and friends. I did a bit of swimming and diving. I played cricket and tennis in the summer and I was happy."
Although a noted goalscorer from the wing, it took Kernaghan to his eighth appearance in a major final to score a goal. He broke his duck with the only goal against Linfield in the 1939 Charity Cup decider. A year later he again scored the only goal as Linfield were seen off in the Gold Cup Final and he also scored in that season's Charity Cup Final, a 3-0 win over Glentoran. That was three finals in a row!
An integral part of the Celtic seven-in-a-row title winning team and a winner of four Irish Cups, Kernaghan left Celtic Park behind in 1945. He went on to Co. Antrim Shield successes with both Distillery and Ballymena United before retiring from playing in 1949. In the 1960s he was manager of the Northern Ireland Youth team that produced George Best.