GAA Football

Provincial experience at underage level should help us: Clann Eireann's Conor Turbitt

Clann Eireann celebrate at the end of the Armagh Club Senior Football Championship Final at The Athletic Grounds

CLANN Eireann’s Conor Turbitt is banking on the provincial experience the vast majority of his team-mates have built up during their successful underage days to help them ahead of their debut appearance in the Ulster Club SF Championship.

The Lurgan men clinched their first senior county title in 58 years earlier this month, beating favourites Crossmaglen Rangers in a dramatic finale and will now face newly-crowned Antrim champions Kickham’s Creggan in their Ulster Club opener at Corrigan Park on December 5.

Ten of the Clann Eireann side that captured the Gerry Fagan Cup on November 14 have come through the ranks together and been weaned on a diet of silverware, claiming the prestigious Paul McGirr Cup at U16 level along the way.

“We know the quality of the teams that will be playing in Ulster,” said Turbitt, one of the architects of Clann Eireann’s second-half comeback in the county decider.

“I think this group of players are lucky in that we have played in provincial championships coming through – we’ve played in U16 and U21 Ulster tournaments and that experience helps, so there’s a know-how in terms of what they’re like.

“Now, this is going to be the next level. The three-week turnaround helps rather than two, so we’ll just get working hard again and get that focus on how far you want to go.”

Turbitt and his team-mates have enjoyed the warm after-glow from their county title success especially how they pulled the game out of the fire in the last quarter against Cross.

“Just before the water break I remember thinking we were six points down and if we can get it back to three and try and get a goal. We never lost belief. We went into the water break and [manager] Tommy Coleman said: ‘We’re going man for man, push up, we have to go for this.’

“Within five minutes of coming back out I think we knocked off four points and after that it was game on again. We got a fortunate goal too. To beat the likes of Cross you need a bit of luck and we got that."

He added: “Cross have that aura about them but growing up most of our boys would have played against them in the year groups and we’ve won and lost championships against them. There was a rivalry there at underage and hopefully this is the start of a new one.”

His personal highlight was not the late points or the end-of-match celebrations.

“I’ll not remember much about the match itself to be honest but walking up Lake Street with the Gerry Fagan Cup and the street lined with people, it was just incredible.

“I probably started playing for Clann Eireann when there was a big revamp of the club and how they were going to go about things. About 20 years ago a group of people came together and decided to put a whole lot of work into the underage structure and ever since I just think the amount of work and the people that did that work has been absolutely incredible.

“There are so many people, so many hours of work have been put into it.

“But, at this point you want to go for Ulster. Forget about what’s coming next year or the year after, it’s what’s coming in the next few weeks. That’s the focus now.”

Turbitt played in two MacRory Cup semi-finals but missed out by a year on St Ronan’s College winning an historic MacRory and Hogan Cup double in 2018.

But it hasn’t stopped the 22-year-old’s dramatic ascension to the Armagh senior team where, on his debut he bagged an eye-catching 2-2 in a 2019 Dr McKenna Cup match against Cavan and followed that up with 1-6 in his NFL debut against the same opposition.

“I was lucky in my first year, ‘Geezer’ saw something in me and he played me. Being involved with Armagh, I’ve 100 per cent added to my game, I couldn’t tell you how much.

“I’ve added a bit of weight and I’d be a bit stronger and especially working with Kieran Donaghy and ‘Geezer’, they’re good coaching forward movement and making certain runs so I think that’s improved my game.”

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