By Shaun Casey
SUCCESS breeds success and Derry minor manager Damian McErlain believes the achievement of back-to-back Ulster titles from the senior side can positively drip down to the Oak Leaf youngsters.
McErlain’s side meet Donegal in Saturday’s Ulster Minor semi-final, with the chance of getting back to the showpiece for the third time in four years on the line.
“There’s a positivity about the whole thing last year winning the Ulster title,” said McErlain. “It generally does give energy to the whole thing but at the same time, a rising tide lifts all the boats in the sense that the clubs are still doing all the work.
“They’re still producing underage players, we’re still competitive at each of the underage grades so we can keep feeding that beast that the senior team has become.”
Derry face Donegal for the third time this season. Donegal edged the league final with a late goal while Derry gained revenge in the group stages of the championship with a 3-12 to 0-6 win.
“It’s a different kettle of fish for us than the last couple of weeks. They have been literally on the road, they’ve had three really tough games in a row, they had ourselves, Monaghan and then Cavan.
“They’re really hard battle hardened and will be used to a tempo that we haven’t experienced since the last time that we played them. That’s the challenge for us, to make sure that we’re at the same pitch that they are.
“The game in Ballybofey, the scoreline suggests we were dominant, but every point was hard fought. We were on it that day, we played well and if you’re one per cent off it, this Donegal team is good enough to stay with you and turn you over as they proved in the league.
“They’ll be very determined to come back and show that they’re not the team we played in Ballybofey and that was just an off day. They’re a very determined, hungry team.
“Even in the Cavan match, they were six points down with five minutes to go and they found a way of digging it out. They shouldn’t have been six points down, they missed a lot of opportunities before Cavan got the couple of goals.
“They still dug it out and just showed the desire they have and the character they have, so they really have something about them. They’re the team with the bit between their teeth this time,” added McErlain.
Derry have been scoring freely throughout the championship and also have one of the best defensive records. “As the game is now, one feeds into the other, there’s no such thing as a defence coach or an attack coach, your defensive strategy is part of your attacking strategy.
“Our defence has been very solid; it’s probably been more impressive than our attack. We’ve tried to be disciplined in how we’ve played no matter the opposition, we’ve tried to play the way we want to play and make sure that we’re working off the ball as well as on the ball and not giving up too many opportunities.”