18 May 2022

Derry will embrace semi-final clash with Ulster rivals

Oakleafers face Tyrone for the fifth successive season

Derry will embrace semi-final clash with Ulster rivals

Derry minor manager Martin Boyle

Derry minor football manager Martin Boyle said his team will improve and embrace their semi-final clash with neighbours Tyrone.

It will be a fifth meeting of the counties at minor level in as many seasons, with Tyrone's semi-final victory last season the only blot on Derry's recent record against the Red Hands.

After winning the first Ulster minor title in 13 years, under Damian McErlain in 2015, Derry have been in four of the last five finals.

“There is no fixture that gets the juices flowing like Derry and Tyrone, it is definitely to something to embrace,” said Boyle after Sunday's win over Armagh.

“We will improve ahead of the Tyrone game, that's the plan, on the front foot and we'll learn from today.”

Derry eased to victory over U20 trial teams in recent weeks, but Boyle warned his side of reading into the results that were 'pretty false', but was happy with how his team were moving in terms of their 'cohesion'.

“Championship-wise, we didn't know where we were at, as did Armagh,” the Ballinascreen man added. That was their concern going into Sunday's game, with the favourites tag well and truly with them.

“In winter football, against a physically aggressive Armagh team who put us to the pin of our collar, it was a different challenge and we're just relieved to come out on the other side of it.”

With no form and little footage of Armagh to study, Boyle admitted they were 'feeling' their way into Sunday's game. Ciaran McKeever had 'five or six' players in his side, Derry didn't expect to be selected.

“I'm not saying it threw us,” Boyle added. “You just have to the courage of your conviction of what we had planned to do ourselves.”

The Derry boss was disappointed in the first-half performance, where he said his side played with 'a handbrake on as such' and didn't attack as well as they should have.

“It was something we had talked about all week, that we were going attack this here, that we weren't going to play with a sweeper, we were going to rely on the players' footballing sense to give us protection at times.

“We chatted about that at half time, I thought we attacked the second half and got the first score and set the tone.”

Boyle admitted his angle on the sideline didn't offer him a clear view of the goal that gave Derry the belief to attack the game further. But he wasn't surprised by Matthew Downey's inch-perfect pass.

“When the ball is in that man's hands, magic happens and (you've to) expect the unexpected,” he said.

“We have encouraged Dan (Higgins) to go (forward) Paddy O'Kane his midfield partner played the anchoring role really well and it gives Dan that freedom to go and that's his greatest strength.

“I'm not saying comfortable, but we were using the ball better after that.”

Armagh came back to notch the next two scores, levelling the game. Kian McGonigle had a 100 percent record on his kick-outs until the 45th minute, as they challenged Derry more aggressively at midfield. Boyle pointed to Armagh naming two midfielders (Antoin McParland and Sean Conlon) in the wing forward berths.

“They were physically a big, big side,” he said. “We knew they would a line of four across the middle and attack our kick-outs.

“In the first half, we got a lot of short to medium kick-outs away, then they shut them down in the second half and forced us to go long. At that stage, it is about fighting for it, the proverbial breaking ball, thankfully we won enough to get us through.”

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