Derry minor boss praises maturity of his players

By Michael McMullan

“IT doesn’t get any easier.” That’s how Derry minor manager Damian McErlain sees the defence of their All-Ireland title.

The Oakleafers had to fend off a stern Armagh challenge to retain their Ulster title in Omagh.

Eoin Duffy’s goal had Armagh two points ahead after 20 minutes before Derry hit three points to go in one point ahead at half time.

Armagh’s game-plan of defending narrow and attacking on the break gave Derry plenty of problems.

“It was a really tough game like we expected it to be,” McErlain said of their Ulster final.

“We played them three weeks ago and we had dominated that game. It is difficult coming into a final like that where we know that our team are a good side, well organised and well drilled.”

McErlain gave credit to Aidan O’Rourke and the Armagh management team for how difficult they were to break down. He also had a word for his own players.

“We showed a good maturity there in terms of not panicking and trying to keep the ball,” he said.

“It was such a close game, Ulster titles aren’t easy won as I kept saying and the boys have earned it here,” McErlain added, also explaining the difficulty of wearing the favourites’ tag.

Derry’s patience and keeping the ball out of contact proved the key ingredient in keeping their noses in front.

Then, late on, Luke Grant broke through for a score with Ger Dillon adding the insurance score after pressing the kick-out. The fact Derry had six starters who had championship experience from last year was also a help.

“You do develop that,” McErlain said of the experience spilling over from last season.

“It was a mature enough performance from us. Maybe it wasn’t as slick or as good as we’d like it to be but that’s up to Armagh too.

“There’s no point in us starting to panic and carry the ball into the tackle whenever they had a packed defence.”

Derry now face Dublin who lost the Leinster final to Longford after extra-time.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” McErlain said. “I’m sure they’re (Dublin) up watching and all the rest.

“The Dubs are definitely a big task. In the All-Ireland, every match is huge, every team is huge.

“They were thereabouts and finalists in their own province. It means they’ve that level of quality.”

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