Derry delighted to be back in decider says McErlain

By Shaun Casey

THE conveyor belt in Derry has been constantly producing the goods over the past decade and the Oak Leaf County are back in another Ulster Minor Championship final this weekend as they take on Armagh.

The two counties have contrasting experiences over the past decade. On Sunday, Armagh compete in their first provincial decider since 2014 while Derry are more or less part of the furniture now on the big day.

“It’s eight in ten years for Derry overall,” said Oak Leaf boss Damian McErlain as his side look set to retain their title. “It’s positive, it’s just another good group coming through and it’s good to be there.”

Derry are the reigning Ulster and All-Ireland champions and having already added a league title to their recent run of good fortune, they are heavy favourites to add another Ulster crown to their collection at Healy Park on Sunday.

Armagh, who won the Ulster League Shield title this year, will be aiming to overturn the odds but given the distance between the sides when they met in the group stages of the championship, it’s a big ask for Aidan O’Rourke’s youngsters.

Derry were 17-points better off that day when the referee called for the ball, but McErlain insists that his side are prepared for a real battle and expect Armagh to offer a stiff challenge.

“We’re fairly aware of the threat that Armagh pose, it was only 0-3 each after 20 minutes in that game so it was a difficult enough opening period,” he added. “We tapped on eight-points when the game was dead.

“But we’ve seen the Armagh performances against other teams like Tyrone, who gave us plenty of bother last week and Armagh destroyed Tyrone in the League Shield final, it was 1-10, the 0-3 at half time.

“We understand the capability and we understand that every game is different, and if you don’t look after your own house and get your own game together it can become a real battle.”

Armagh saw off Monaghan and Donegal in their quarter-final and semi-final wins to reach the decider and McErlain expects them to be confident of causing an upset.

“Armagh have had two knockout wins since that game, they won against Monaghan and then they went to Ballyshannon, which was not easy, and turned over Donegal so they will have learned from our match,” continued the Derry manager.

“They’ll have dissected the video in no uncertain terms and tried to improve their own game and now they’ll have to focus directly on us and how we played that day to try and come up with a plan to make sure it’s a totally different game the next day.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else from them, it’s an Ulster final, it’s not going to be easy at all so the last result is out the window, we’ve got to go out and do it again, and Armagh, there’s absolutely no doubt, they are going to be far better set for it.”


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