Charlton did try. Kernaghan's yellow card in Copenhagen's drenching rain, alleged Charlton, was an error - 'he paid the penalty for something Niall Quinn had done on the other side of the park.'
Charlton was visibly proud of Kernaghan and Kevin Moran, thrown together after Mick McCarthy and Paul McGrath had withdrawn. They played the major part in blocking out the European champions Denmark 0-0.
'Moran,' said Charlton, one centre-half talking of another, 'was brilliant. I was nervous about him. When you're 36 you don't put your head into places you did when you were 24. He came off with a wobbly knee, a bashed-in nose, blood all over his face; a terrific performance.'
Moran, cleaned up and grinning, explained: 'I might have thought I was finished at this level. But it's the big matches in the big time that give you the high to keep going. Look at Gordon Strachan.'
On the other hand Kernaghan, 25, can look forward to a long future in the green shirt.
Denmark's Richard Moller Neilsen, the latest coach to explain how difficult the Irish can be, praised the Irish midfield: 'In Townsend and Keane they have two very strong but also very skilful players.'
The Republic functioned smoothly all the way from Paddy Bonner, who was twice in exactly the right place as Brian Laudrup broke through, to the back four and midfield. But up front neither Ray Houghton nor Eddie McGoldrick produced sufficient high centres to keep the Air Force aloft; had Bernie Slaven been available Charlton might have changed the system before David Kelly appeared in the 72nd minute. Peter Schmeichel did not have to make a proper save. throughout the match.
Denmark, after three successive 0-0 draws, are suspicious of the surface in their newly rebuilt National Stadium. But they did produce one prospect in Marc Reiper, the 23-year-old central defender from Brondby, who won praise for marking Niall Quinn.
Billy Bingham, the Northern Ireland manager, yesterday paid tribute to Tommy Wright, who was named man of the match after Wednesday's goalless draw against Spain. The Newcastle United goalkeeper played a key role in earning his team a point, which leaves them in second place in Group Three. 'I can pay him no higher compliment than to say that at last I have found a replacement for Pat Jennings,' Bingham said.