McErlain hails Derry’s resilience

By Shaun Casey

“TO win an All-Ireland, everything has to be right,” said Damian McErlain after his side defeated Armagh by three points to win back-to-back All-Ireland Minor titles for the first time in the county’s history.

For large spells, the Orchard County matched McErlain’s youthful team stride for stride, but when the going got tough in the second half, Derry dug deep and produced the goods to get over the line, just as they’ve had to do all year long.

When their backs were against the wall versus Dublin and Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final respectively, the Oak Leaf youngsters came out swinging and last Sunday’s showpiece was no different.

With 20 minutes left to play, Derry trailed by two points, but again they showed serious resilience to kick on and nailed 1-3 on the bounce to secure the title.

“If you take the Ulster final, the Dublin match, the Kerry match, there were different questions and different answers needed on the different days,” said McErlain, who also guided Derry to an All-Ireland final in 2017, where they lost to Kerry.

“But every day the boys showed not just the character and the appetite for the game whenever it’s in the melting pot, but the intelligence and the quality that’s needed to get over the line.

“To win an All-Ireland, everything has to be right. I’ve learnt that the hard way previously and thankfully we’ve got it right these two years.”

McErlain pointed to the influence of some of the older boys on the team, who lead the way on their path to two-in-a-row. Captain James Sargent was immense throughout and he was deservingly named as the Player of the Match.

Others, such as Luke Grant, Eamon Young and Ger Dillon featured in last year’s final and they all put in solid shifts. But McErlain also name-checked to the lads that didn’t get on the field, but still had a major impact in the background.

On the turning point in the game, the Magherafelt clubman added, “We started to win balls and put far more pressure on around the middle. Our key players started to stand up.

“Sargent, Grant, Eamon, they all really started to come into it. They won the match for us, to be honest. You have two quality groups of players, the depth in the squads has been serious.

“I’m mindful of the lads that didn’t get game time in the final, I wish I could have played at least 20-25 men, but you couldn’t.

“It’s difficult for them, they’ve put in the same yards, the same work and you don’t get on to the pitch on the final day.

“But that’s why you’re fit to produce teams, you have a depth of quality. There’s lads, maybe not even in the squad, that would be in other county teams.

“We’re just delighted that we’ve maximised our potential and I suppose that has been the key thing for us.”

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