Duty calls and doesn’t Peter Turley know it. First introduced to the Down set-up by Ross Carr in 2008, the midfielder played up until 2009, before work with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service meant he had to quit.
“Because of the way the shift pattern works, I couldn’t really go,” he explains. “I took two years out, I didn’t go to the trials or anything. It was bloody 2010 (Down finished All-Ireland runners-up), the year you’re mad to get into the team. I wasn’t there 2010 or 2011, then I got called back into the squad.
An exception couldn’t be made for Turley, not when allowances weren’t afforded to other colleagues in their sporting pursuits, but since 2012, a superior has looked favourably on his inter-county career.
“It was all down to a fella, Maurice Field, who played rugby for Ulster and Ireland when he was in the fire brigade and he always found it difficult to get time off. He became my watch commander and he basically said, if I ever get a chance to go back to the county, to make sure and take it. He said he would do whatever he could to get me to training, he’d work with me 100%.
“Before then, you might have had someone who just wasn’t into the Gaelic and don’t know what it means to people. They’d just be doing their job, but Maurice said, if I get a chance, to take it with both hands.”
The pain of missing out on that epic 2010 season sticks with the Downpatrick man, but he is deriving plenty of satisfaction out of this unlikely run to an Ulster final.
“We were written off for good reason. Championship performances in the last couple of years just haven’t been good enough. You’re going to play teams that you’re going to be written off against, because of the way you’ve played previously.
“When we got to the Ulster final in 2012, I think we were fully expected to get to the final, so there wasn’t really the same buzz about it at the time. I can remember playing Tyrone in Omagh and we lost in the replay.
"I remember I was travelling up and down with boys, they weren’t in the starting 15, and their attitude was: ‘What’s the point? We’re not going to beat Tyrone.’ I was saying: ‘Why are you coming all the way up here to training, if you don’t believe we can beat them?’
“That was the attitude we had and that’s the attitude we had against Monaghan last year.
“This year has just been completely different. ‘We’re going to beat these boys’, that’s the attitude we had for Monaghan.
"We felt if things went our way and it was in the melting pot in the last five minutes it could go our way, and that’s exactly what happened. It was a 50-50 game. That’s what you’re aiming for, just to be in the game in the very last five minutes.”
To beat Tyrone on Sunday would transform Turley’s inter-county career.
“I have been playing for a long time and I haven’t won much of note. I won an intermediate championship with the club and I haven’t really won anything else. We won a McKenna Cup way back [in 2008]. Dan Gordon was the captain. I played the first game in that against Tyrone and never played again after that.
“It’s going from looking back and saying: ‘I enjoyed myself, but I never really won anything’, to a different story if we win this. I hope that’s the case, because I don’t have many years left.”
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