Oakleafer minors out to continue winning run

By Shaun Casey

ULSTER and All-Ireland Minor champions Derry continue their championship campaign this weekend as they travel to Dunsilly to take on Antrim and aim to continue their fine form at this age grade.

Damian McErlain’s side have already captured the league title, the only trophy that eluded them last season, and opened their championship account with a three-point home win against Cavan.

They are on the road this weekend in round two and take on an Antrim side that suffered a 2-9 to 0-2 defeat at the hands of Armagh on the opening day, so the Oak Leaf County will be big favourites come Saturday.

“Every championship match brings a different challenge. We’re going up to Dunsilly and Antrim will be well up for it, they obviously lost heavily to Armagh but made massive progress from their final league game against Armagh (which they lost 7-16 to 0-2).

“They’re obviously improving week by week and on what they’re doing but at this stage we still have so much to work on in our own game that we have to get that right first and hopefully that’ll be enough to do us on Saturday.”

While Derry overcame Cavan in the opening round, it’s hard to see how much either side will have taken out of it given the horrible weather conditions, but Derry were pleased to come out the right end of the result.

“The league is a league, it’s games but I don’t think you get an absolute, one hundred per cent read on teams and where they’re at but what seems to be the case is that there’s a fairly even spread of competitiveness across it.

“The format this year is maybe a wee bit more stop-start than last year, but we’re pleased enough with how it’s going. The conditions were absolutely impossible that first day out against Cavan.

“Our keeper was kicking the ball out in the second half while the ball was moving, it was blowing back towards the D but for both teams it really was impossible.

“We played Cavan on two similar days (one in the league). The first day was really, really bad and the second day was just off the charts in terms of the wind, so it made for a tough day.

“It was a tough game and I suppose Cavan were well up for the match and were very physical and worked really hard, so it was a good championship outing and a huge win for us.”

McErlain has held onto a number of the panel that claimed All-Ireland glory last season, including the likes of James Sargent, who was named at centre half-back on the Electric Ireland Minor Team of the Year for 2023, Eamonn Young, Luke Grant and Ger Dillon.

Derry should have a full hand to pick from this weekend as they take on the Saffrons. “Touch wood we have no injuries really at the minute,” added the Derry boss. “We have a few niggles and that but we’re operating off a full panel.”

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