McCooe hopes it’s third time lucky

Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship Final
Derry v Armagh
Sunday, O’Neill’s Healy Park, 2pm

By Shaun Casey

WHEN Armagh make the short trip to O’Neill’s Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday for the All-Ireland final with Ulster rivals Derry, their hoping to make it third time lucky against the Oakleafers this season.

Of the previous two championship clashes played earlier in the season, Damian McErlain’s Derry have won both by a combined tally of 19 points.

The first encounter was during the group stages. Playing on home turf that day, Derry cruised to a handsome 17-point victory on their way to topping the group, while the reigning All-Ireland champions picked up a two-point win when the sides locked horns once again in the Ulster decider.

Now the Tom Markham Cup is up for grabs this time around and Armagh centre half-forward James McCooe is looking to renewing acquaintances with Derry.

“We’re improving game on game so we will just see how we deal with them in the final,” said McCooe.

“Hopefully, there will be a big crowd there and Armagh will get behind us. There hasn’t been much success over the years, but we’re a good team. It’s great getting to the final and it’ll be great if we can win it as well.”

Since losing the Ulster final, Aidan O’Rourke’s youngsters have knocked out the Leinster and Connacht champions, Longford and Mayo, out of the All-Ireland race with impressive back-to-back displays.

The Orchard County had 13 points to spare in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Longford while their most complete performance of the campaign came the last day out when they saw off Mayo by seven.

“We knew we needed to work harder, and everyone dug in, and we just got the result we needed which was good,” added McCooe of Armagh’s second-half display against Mayo, having conceded a goal inside the opening 60 seconds of the game.

It’s been 15 years since Armagh competed in an All-Ireland Minor final, when the class of Rory Grugan, Andrew Murnin and James Morgan, stars of the senior side in recent years, led the county to the title.

That was just the second time ever that Armagh collected an All-Ireland Minor title, and this weekend, McCooe and his teammates will be determined to add another to that list and move the Orchard up on the roll of honour.

Derry will certainly be seriously tough opposition as they search for a second All-Ireland title in a row, a feat that they have never achieved in their history having collected six previous crowns.

“It’ll be good, we have worked all year for this, so it’ll just be good to show what we’ve worked for all year,” continued McCooe. “When you’re training this hard all year, you meet people from different clubs and you’re gelling together for the final year.

“So, we’ll just give our best and see what happens. When we’re training hard and we’re moving the ball fast, it’s hard to beat. So, we’ll just keep going and see where it takes us.”

Also, check out this week’s Gaelic Lives podcast as Monaghan minor manager Dermot Malone looks ahead to Sunday’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor final.

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