Whirlwind start meant defenders were looking out for me says Armagh forward Conor Turbitt
CONOR Turbitt could have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about. The emerging Armagh forward burst onto the inter-county scene with 2-2 on his senior debut in last year’s Dr McKenna Cup opener against Cavan, then landed four points against Tyrone and followed that up with 1-6 in his first taste of National League action.
That’s 3-12 in three games and, after a start like that, some youngsters might have thought the game was simple. Turbitt didn’t fall into that trap.
“My debut was unbelievable,” says the 21-year-old from Lurgan’s Clann Eireann.
“The League debut at home was another one and it was a whirlwind to be honest, it was a mad couple of weeks.
“I’ve been following Armagh for years and watching them play and then all of a sudden you’re standing on the pitch with boys you have idolised getting a team-talk… It sort of takes you by surprise, it’s a shock.
“When you look around the changingroom at the boys you’re trying to compete with to get into the team and there’s no shortage of talent there. You’re thinking: ‘I’m trying to get into this team’ and you have a point to prove that you belong there and that you can play at that level.”
His performances earned rave reviews but the flip side – there’s always a flip side - was that his statement of intent meant he wouldn’t be able to fly below the radar for long.
“I knew that I might have made a name for myself and that would mean defenders would be looking to mark you tighter so I was expecting that too,” he says and that’s exactly what happened.
He scored against Laois and Westmeath but the talented full-forward was rested and given a chance to catch his breath as Armagh surged to the top of Division Two with a comprehensive win over Fermanagh and now he’s looking forward to getting back into the action when the GAA season resumes.
Turbitt, who is currently in the third year of a degree in marketing at Queen’s, is working on placement at NI Water. He became accustomed to success almost from the get-go at U6 level with Clann Eireann. Managed by Marty McConville that team were winners at every underage level and under the tutelage of David Wilson and Mickey Donnelly at St Ronan’s he played in two MacRory Cup semi-finals but had left by the time the Lurgan school finally clinched their historic first title.
He has lined out for Armagh minors and U20s and was invited to join the senior squad for pre-season training last year.
“It was a proud moment for me and my family,” he says.
“I felt I was representing everybody that had helped me - the club, my family, everyone… The whole way through mum and dad have helped me, they don’t miss a match even if it’s a friendly or a university game down in Dublin they might be the only ones there but they’ll be there.”
He dad is from Omagh and, so far, his son has done well against his native Red Hands.
“I have a lot of family in Omagh so there’s a bit of rivalry but I think they’re starting to go orange now,” says Conor and he’s well aware that the process may take a while.
His first taste of action against his father’s native county was the 100-minute Ulster U20 semi-final thriller two years ago. It had 48 scores and plenty of “feisty” exchanges too. Armagh beat the Red Hands 2-22 to 0-24 with Turbitt landing half-a-dozen points but the mass brawl during the game led to wholesale suspensions for Peter McDonnell’s team and Derry were clear winners in the final.
“It was some game to be a part of,” he says.
“There was a bit of rivalry and a bit of stick afterwards so it was a good for us to come out on top.”
His second taste of the fierce rivalry came in the Orchard county’s first match of this year and he produced another four points that day. There’ll be bigger games and tougher tests ahead and he knows that. He wants to be part of them.