By Michael McMullan
DERRY u-20 manager Martin Boyle was full of praise for Donncha Gilmore and Ruairi Forbes on their return from injury in Derry’s 3-12 to 0-8 win over Fermanagh on Wednesday night in Roslea.
The Oakleafers were All-Ireland minor champions three seasons ago, but went into the game without senior star Eoin McEvoy and Lee Brady through injury, with goalkeeper Kian McGonigle failing a late fitness test.
Derry had the wind at their backs and two points on the board before Gilmore and Forbes cut through with purpose for the latter to hammer home the first of three perfectly timed goals.
Both players only got the all-clear weeks before the game after undergoing shoulder surgery in November.
“It was pretty emphatic,” Boyle said of the finish to set the stall on a 1-2 to 0-0 lead.
“The level of performance Ruairí and Donncha got to was fantastic, it was a total testament to them.
“They got the all-clear less than a fortnight ago. That’s just incredible, for them to produce a performance like that…their attitude to their rehab throughout.
“We expected that because they are serious about their football and they had the ability to produce that.”
Fermanagh did rally with three points on the bounce before a Charlie Diamond beauty was backed up with a Lachlan Murray goal as Derry headed to the break well in control.
The home side did have a chance to hit an early second half goal but an overcooked pass across goal went over the head of the in-rushing Aodghan Kelm at the far post.
“We knew Fermanagh were going to come with a bounce in the second half and it was how we dealt with it,” Boyle added.
“The roads these boys have been down in the last two or three years, the big games they have played and the way they have managed them, you don’t have any doubt in their ability to manage a game.”
Boyle took over from Paddy Bradley as manager after three years in charge at minor level and the Ballinascreen man feels there may have been a few eyebrows raised with the inclusion of James Murray, Danny McDermott and Ruairi Forbes from last year’s minor team.
“Then we lost Bongo (goalkeeper Kian McGonigle) before the warm-up. Ben O’Connor went into nets, so that is four of last year’s minors to go in and play and stand out at that level,” Boyle said.
“We said to the boys when they were added to the panel that we trust the boys from last year’s minor team so much that they are ready to play at this level.
“I am particularly pleased for those men. They have arrived as far as we are concerned. A lot of them are not house hold names as such, but they soon will be.”
Fermanagh 0-08 Derry 3-12@Doiregaa 🟥⬜️ hit the net three times to overcome @fermanagh 🟩⬜️ in Roslea last night to progress to the @EirGrid Ulster Under 20 Football Championship Semi Finals 🏐#Ulster2023 pic.twitter.com/T5nJ9W9woA
— Ulster GAA (@UlsterGAA) March 30, 2023
As Boyle spoke outside the dressing rooms in Roslea, Derry’s semi-final opponents were unknown with Antrim and Donegal still playing extra-time of a clash Donegal won after penalties.
Now it’s about getting the preparation hat on again, with Monaghan taking on Down in the other semi-final after Conor Laverty’s charges ousted All-Ireland champions Tyrone in Omagh,
“We have a few injuries, Bongo (McGonigle), Lee Brady and Eoin McEvoy, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Boyle said.
“We have a two-hour bus journey up the road so it will give us a chance to see where we go from here.”