GAA Football

Conor Glass hopes Tyrone triumph can inspire Derry to greater heights

Glen and Derry midfielder Conor Glass at the launch of this year’s AIB GAA club championships and AIB camogie club championships. Picture by Sportsfile
Neil Loughran

WATCHING Tyrone climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Sam Maguire Cup “wasn’t easy” – but Conor Glass hopes the Reds Hands’ success will inspire Derry to push onto greater heights in the years ahead.

After some difficult years the Oak Leafs now look like men on a mission under Rory Gallagher, with the likes of Glass returning home from Australia and the pick of the best players in the county bolstering their cause.

This year saw Derry cruise to promotion from Division Three before a ding-dong Ulster Championship battle with neighbours Donegal was only settled by an added time winner from the left boot of Patrick McBrearty.

With so little to choose between the Tir Chonaill and Tyrone during recent times, Glass feels that, despite the disappointment of that day in Ballybofey, Derry can take huge confidence as they bid to close the gap in future.

“It was a dull time in the changing rooms afterwards,” said the Glen midfielder, reflecting on that Ulster exit.

“We obviously put in a good performance but we probably let ourselves down by not capitalising on some of the good opportunities, and letting them back into it.

“But we have a very young team in Derry and it will serve us in good stead. We’ll obviously learn from it and hopefully we’ll be able to perform and capitalise on it next time, and see the game out.

“Watching Tyrone winning the All-Ireland wasn’t easy. It would’ve given a few players an extra boost this year getting through the pre-season, it’ll give them a bit of motivation to put in a lot more effort because we don’t see that there’s much between us and Donegal, or us and Tyrone.

“They obviously went the full way – it’s all about momentum at the end of the day. Tyrone built every week and grew. We just need to get over that first hurdle, the first round of the Ulster Championship, and that’s what we’ve struggled with.

“Getting over that first one will be huge for us.”

In terms of his own performances for club and county, Glass’s influence has grown with each passing game after initially finding it tough to transition back to Gaelic football after five years with AFL outfit Hawthorn.

“The thing I struggled with was actually the game-style,” said the 24-year-old, who is currently in the second year of an accountancy degree at Ulster University.

“Gaelic changed a lot since I had left - I left at minor and underage, and that’s a big step up to senior. So learning the game, I watched a lot of footage of the likes of Dublin, the best team in the country; trying to find where I fit in in the Derry team, where I fit in the Glen team and what my role in the team is.

“Once I was able to establish that then I could perform, whereas the likes of my first game against Armagh I didn’t really know my role in the team. Now I kind of think I do.

“Even in the weeks and months after that I had to do extra work. I would have done that in Australia, on vision and that kind of thing. I actually enjoyed the process of learning my craft and learning the skills all over again… it kind of reminded me of my younger years kicking with my weaker foot or high catching, things like that.”

There hasn’t been a day when he has regretted the decision to return home, and Glass insists he came back “better for the experience” – with some difficult moments, and becoming the occasional target of online trolls, making him stronger now.

“Going through tougher times has made me who I am today. I’m obviously not engrossed in social media, and don’t take other people’s opinions to heart, especially boys that don’t really understand much about football. It’s normally just trolls and stuff on social media.

“I’m in a better place for it and any education I can pass on to any Gaelic players, or anyone really, about that sort of stuff I’ll do so.

“It would be worse in Australia because it’s a professional sport and they literally live and breathe the professional environment. Because it’s your full-time job that’s when they’ll scrutinise you about… like, we got more abuse because we’re Irish and they’re probably a bit jealous they didn’t make it to that level, whereas we’re coming from a completely different sport and they didn’t play there where we are.

“It wasn’t out fault them coming over and scouting us. You’ve just got to deal with it - it’s always going to come in sport, you just have to deal with it the right way.”

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