Edendork's Conn Kilpatrick looks a fine midfield find for Tyrone
Conn Kilpatrick says he’ll play anywhere for Tyrone, but the big Edendork lad looks like he’s a perfect fit for the number nine shirt.
A county that has produced some of the game’s greatest midfielders may just have uncovered another outstanding prospect.
The 22-year-old’s perfect debut earned him the man of the match award following Sunday’s Dr McKenna Cup win over Cavan, and he can’t wait for the next opportunity to parade his array of talents.
“I’ll play anywhere, everyone is open to playing anywhere and in gaelic now you have to be versatile, whether playing in the half-backs, midfield or in the forwards,” he said.
“And as long as everyone is working hard that’s the important thing, you have to play anywhere and see that everyone gets a fair chance.”
Kilpatrick’s club form looked set to earn him a county call-up a year ago, but a foot injury ruled him out for most of the 2018 season.
Following surgery, he returned with an immediate re-engagement with outstanding form, leaving Tyrone boss Mickey Harte with no option but to call him into his squad.
“I’ve been itching to get this game since getting the call-up in November and to put in a big performance to be here with the lads and working hard. Training has been very hard and going well and we're just trying to get our shoulders to the wheel for the rest of the season.
“Last year I had to go through an operation, but I’ve been working each year to try and make the step up. Last year I was unlucky, but I knew that if I put the hard work in then I’d get the chance.”
High fielding, strong running and accurate finishing, combined with vision and creativity, showcased Kilpatrick’s impressive performance at Healy Park, earning him a warm ovation as he exited the action after 50 productive minutes.
A natural ability to link with clubmate Darren McCurry produced many enticing moments in Tyrone’s 1-16 to 0-13 win, offering encouraging signs that he can become a real team player.
“Me and the 'Dazzler' link up well like everyone. But I think we just have that bit of extra touch and know each other’s game inside out. Catching is a big part of my game, and driving through the middle.”
Kilpatrick was one of five debutants in Tyrone’s season opener at Healy Park, all of whom suggested that they have something to offer as the Red Hands prepare to mount another big challenge in 2020.
“The players who have been in the squad during previous years have been very welcoming to newcomers like myself.
“Everybody is putting in the same work no matter if they've been there 10 years or a couple of months and it shows out on the pitch because everyone knows the gameplan and the belief to back each other up,” he added.
“There will be injuries throughout the year and everyone also knows that there's jerseys up for grabs. It's up to everybody to put in the performance on the day and throughout the year and that's what we'll hope to do again against Armagh on Wednesday night.”
The McKenna Cup holders took some time to work off the rustiness, but a strong second half performance saw them run out comfortable winners to set up a group decider against the Orchard men tomorrow evening.
“We had our gameplan set out from the start and this year we've said we're not going to change it no matter if we're behind or ahead. Everyone stuck to that and thankfully we got over the line with the win.
“This year we're not going to take any game for granted. Our aim is to put every team in with a big performance and hopefully we'll come out with the right performance in the end”.