Having already packed plenty of lessons into his Irish League education within the past three years, Ross Larkin’s Linfield switch is seen by the young centre-back as the latest career step forward.
Back in 2017, Larkin’s first fortnight in senior football with Portadown featured a derby Irish Cup win before picking up a point away to Linfield as a rare highlight in a campaign which started with a 12-point deduction for his Shamrock Park club and ended in top-flight relegation.
Back-to-back Bluefin Sport Championship pain as part of the Ports’ promotion bid served to add to the teenager’s experience - a development Larkin expects will only maintain momentum in Belfast blue.
Now part of the best defensive finishing school in the domestic game, the 20-year-old centre-back is relishing the opportunities to learn within a Linfield camp that secured 21 clean sheets over last season’s 38-game march to another league title.
“In discussions with Linfield manager David Healy we talked a lot about my development as a player and to come to the best club in the country can obviously only help,” said Larkin. “Over training and games I’m going to be able to learn so much from the rest of the squad.
“You look at Linfield’s defensive record and the individual awards for the players at the back and it is so exciting to be part of that set-up.
“Linfield are so well-drilled both in terms of defensively towards keeping clean sheets but also such a real threat from set-pieces in terms of scoring goals, so it’s a great environment in which to continue learning.
“I just want to work hard, learn as much as possible over training and in games then, hopefully, grab an opportunity when it comes along.”
Larkin makes the move aiming to transfer back on to the senior stage a skillset which attracted early interest from professional clubs.
“The Championship is, in many ways, a more difficult level than the Premiership and I think my style of play can be better suited to the top flight, even in terms of playing conditions,” he said. “I owe a lot to Niall Currie and Matthew Tipton, my two previous managers at Portadown.
“Everyone at Portadown was very good to me and being at the club allowed me to make my Irish League senior debut.
“I joined Portadown after the SuperCupNI with County Armagh then moved forward into the firsts from the reserves and made my debut in the Irish Cup that February of my first season.
“I just felt it was the right time to move on now and I’m excited about this next step.
“On top of just getting those minutes under my belt at Portadown, the mental challenges of dealing with relegation and fighting to try and get promoted will, hopefully, help me adjust with a move to a club of Linfield’s profile.
“When I made my debut it was probably getting that opportunity in part due to the situation of Portadown off the points deduction and with the squad in transition as more experienced players were coming to the end of contracts and ready to leave then younger players presented with chances.
“I came into the side and just put my focus on keeping the head down and doing my best but I certainly feel I’ve been able to take something from that time at Portadown then relegation and the subsequent battle to get back up.
“Now it is about taking everything possible from all of those previous experiences to help me.”