Derry must put their best foot forward says McErlain

By Michael McMullan

DERRY minors must produce their best performance yet when they take on Kerry in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final (Mullingar 1.30pm) insists manager Damian McErlain.

The reigning champions met the Kingdom in a challenge game during the season and the Derry management know exactly what is coming down the tracks.

After digging their heels in three times in their quarter-final win over Dublin, all eyes have been on Kerry who easily accounted for Roscommon.

“In terms of the learnings, we were frustrated that we kept Dublin in the game, particularly in the second half whenever we had taken control,” McErlain said of their win and how it was a case of “job done”.

The Oakleafers have also received the boost of attacker Ger Dillon’s return to training. A scan revealed no knee ligament damage. Bruising restricted involvement to a late cameo appearance to help steady the Derry ship against Dublin.

Looking forward to the challenge Kerry will place in his side’s path, McErlain cast his mind back to the challenge game. Both teams were full out for the first half before Derry made changes at the break with Kerry letting the dust settle a further 15 minutes before doing likewise.

“The first half was pretty much the two teams going at it hell for leather,” McErlain said of their encounter during one of the Ulster Championship’s free weekends.

“We see them as probably one of the best oppositions we’ve seen this year so far,” McErlain told Gaelic Life.

“They are just a highly dangerous outfit in terms of having good forwards and working really hard.

“It’s going to take our best performance yet, our most focused performance.

“Kerry are going to come at it and really bring it. They are going to try and go for the jugular with everything that they can.

“You’d expect nothing else and they do have that, they definitely have, from what we’ve seen, the quality to publish errors.

“It’s going to be a huge game. There’s definitely no skirting around this one, this is a big, big, big match.”

McErlain is in his second tenure as Derry minor manager and it was Kerry who ended Oaks’ Tom Markham Cup hopes in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Martin Boyle steered Derry to the 2020 All-Ireland final win over Kerry with McErlain winning last year’s All-Ireland on his return.

The Derry boss felt the threat Dublin carried in their Leinster campaign sharpened their focus going into their quarter-final win.

Looking at the next step, McErlain said his side will know exactly what is at stake when the ball is thrown in this weekend.

“The fact that the boys played against them is a big thing, in the sense that the boys saw the quality Kerry have for them themselves,” he said. “Any team who gets to the semi-final has been well road-tested and well down the line.

“They know there has been a step up in quality every time they’ve gone out onto the pitch this year.”

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