GAA Football

“We would say we've the best forwards in Ireland and it's about time we showed it..." Conor Turbitt looks forward to Croke Park test for Armagh

Conor Turbitt came off the bench and scored against Donegal and then Tyrone. Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

THE under-rated strength-in-depth of the Armagh panel has come to the fore in the Orchard county’s resurgence over the past two weekends.

After their well-documented loss to Donegal in Ballybofey, Armagh were rocked by a series of injury setbacks to first choice players. First midfielder Ciaran Mackin was ruled out with a fractured eye socket, then it emerged that half-forward Tiernan Kelly could miss the rest of the season, then Niall Grimley broke his neck at training, Oisin O’Neill hasn’t been able to shake off a quad injury, Paddy Burns limped off against Tyrone and Connaire Mackin was stretchered off in the same game.

Armagh have been able to deal with those injuries by calling on players who have come in and proved their worth against the Red Hands at the Athletic Grounds and then against Donegal in Clones last Sunday.

Killeavy youngster Conor O’Neill has slotted into the team at corner-back and looked at home so far, Stephen Sheridan has returned at midfield and Andrew Murnin’s performance and two points off the bench against Tyrone earned him a starting spot against Donegal last weekend.

Clann Eireann clubman Conor Turbitt was one of the few Armagh players to impress against Donegal in Ballybofey and he has impressed in the last two games with a point against the Red Hands and two more in the 10-point rematch victory over Donegal.

As Armagh prepare for their June 26 All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway – the Orchardmen’s first appearance in the last eight since 2017 – Turbitt will be pushing as hard as he can for a starting slot. With the likes of Ross McQuillan and Jemar Hall also doing their damnedest to be in the first 15, he says forcing his way into the starting line-up has been a challenge.

Rian O’Neill is the undoubted leader of the attacking pack as a scorer and creative force but Rory Grugan (1-3 in Clones), Jason Duffy, Stefan Campbell, Aidan Nugent and Murnin have also impressed over the last two games.

“It’s hard to break into the starting line-up,” said Turbitt.

“We would say we’ve the best forwards in Ireland and it’s about time we showed it. It is tough but I’m happy to do my role, whatever that role is.”

With the writing on the wall in Ballybofey, Armagh supporters were heading for the exits well before the final whistle but last Sunday’s post-match atmosphere was a stark contrast. Like the rest of the players, Turbitt was besieged by an army of delighted young supporters and he stood for photographs and signed autographs long after the curtain had come down on a win that will send the Orchardmen, and their growing army of fans, to Croke Park high on confidence.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Turbitt as he posed for yet another picture.

“They’ll not be able to get out onto Croke Park, so this is their last chance to get the photos taken.”

Only five – James Morgan, Stephen Sheridan, Rory Grugan, Aidan Forker and Stefan Campbell – of Sunday’s line-up started against Tyrone in the last eight loss back in 2017. Ethan Rafferty (an outfield player back then) and Ben Crealey were introduced as substitutes.

Turbitt has never played at Croke Park before and says the hard yards the Armagh players covered after the doom and gloom of the Ulster Championship loss have underpinned his county’s dramatic change in fortune.

“It was a long six weeks between the Donegal game and the Tyrone game,” he said.

“The work that we put in was massive and we’re seeing the results now.”

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GAA Football