By Michael McMullan
DERRY minor manager Damian McErlain has paid tribute to how his young side mentally tuned in for Saturday’s All-Ireland clash with reigning champions Galway.
The Oakleafers won their 16th Ulster title last month with a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Monaghan and were back with their games faces on at training by the Thursday night.
Speaking after the final, captain Fionn McEldowney expressed his desire to go as deep into the All-Ireland series as possible.
Eamon Young’s goal had Derry 1-3 to 0-1 ahead midway through the first half in Carrick on Shannon and on their way to a 12-point win over the Tribesmen.
It was a win McEldowney – on behalf of the other St Patrick’s Maghera players in the squad – dedicated to their school coach Martin McConnell who is going through a tough time off the pitch.
“The All-Ireland minor quarter final is a very tricky situation, particularly for champions, the teams that win their province,” McErlain said of the need to “manage the heads” in preparation for the next challenge.
Derry had two tricky quarter-finals in McErlain’s previous stint as minor manager. Longford squeezed in two goals in 2015 before Shane McGuigan kicked Derry to victory.
It was a similar scenario two years later when Sligo – inspired by a top drawer performance from the late Red Óg Murphy – pushed them every step of the way.
“Our lads really managed that brilliantly all along,” McErlain said of the mentality in among the current crop.
“They had their heads down and into the work the following Thursday night. It’s a credit to them for that, in the houses they are coming from that they are not getting carried away with silly stuff.
“That’s really, really good and that gives us a wee bit of momentum into this series.”
Derry now face Dublin in the semi-finals with Monaghan taking on Kerry. Both games are fixed for Saturday, June 24.