Saturday 24 August 2019

Back to health and back in form, Turnbull set to seize the day with Rebels

Brian Turnbull: ‘When things aren’t working it doesn’t mean you’re not going in the right direction’. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian Turnbull: ‘When things aren’t working it doesn’t mean you’re not going in the right direction’. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Over the past year, Brian Turnbull has learned all about the vast chasm between U-20 and senior hurling, but the transition spoken about less often is the one that precedes it.

In 2017 the Douglas star shot the lights out in the minor championship, his top-scoring tally of 1-51 helping Cork to the final and seeing him crowned minor star hurler of the year.

He had it all ahead of him, a seemingly smooth path cleared towards U-20 - and eventually senior - success.

But then he did his cruciate. Just a week after that two-point loss to Galway in the 2017 minor final he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing football with his club.

He heard the pop, a terrifying sound that sealed his fate for the winter. The following month he went under the knife at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry and the recovery required as much patience as you'd expect.

"It was the whole of 2018 nearly," he says.

His re-entry came with UCC freshers and there were a whole lot of bad performances before he had a good one.

"It would have been frustrating but when things aren't working it doesn't mean you're not going the right direction. It hits the pride, but you have to be willing to put yourself into that position where you play badly because you'll learn from that."

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He has learned, and proof came in the call-up from the since-departed John Meyler to juggle U-20 duties with training among the senior panel. As far as he's come, it taught Turnbull how far he has to go.

"It did show me everything I'm lacking, everything I have to get up to. It's my aim to get to their level."

The seniors were all very friendly, but weren't afraid of doling out tough love.

"At the end of the day you have to perform when needs be in training, so there's always that side to it, the ruthless side that has to be there."

He didn't get any competitive game-time with them, however, and he was released back to the U-20s earlier this year.

The 20-year-old has chipped in a total of 10 points in Cork's last three games en route to today's All-Ireland U-20 semi-final against Kilkenny in Portlaoise. His health restored, the consistency is showing in his hurling.

"The knee is perfect. I had a small bit of hamstring trouble throughout the year but nothing major. I think that's normal, when you get a long-term injury, it's often something else that comes at you, but I've been injury-free the last couple of weeks, I've had a good stint and it's hugely important."

Earlier in the year Cork played Kilkenny in a challenge match in Nowlan Park and what struck Turnbull was the impact of the hits.

"They were probably the strongest team we played in any challenge game," he says. "They're going to bring a physicality and aggression to it."

They've pored over the video of the Leinster final and as a result, he says they "know what to expect" this afternoon: "The middle third will kind of decide the game."

With the U-20s the sole hurling hope left for Cork to grab All-Ireland glory in 2019, he knows expectation is ratcheted up back home. But that's all right. He's been at this level as a minor, and walked a tough road to get back here as an U-20. Two games to go. Game on.

"It's something to look forward to and embrace rather than let get you down," he says. "It's a huge opportunity."

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