Derry can go extra mile
Oak Leaf boys fired up for Minor replay
Michael McMullan has played a key role to date this summer in helping to bring Derry into the ESB All Ireland Minor Football Championship semi-finals.
The popular Slaughtneil clubman shares the training duties with Killian Conlan and the level of fitness which the Oak Leaf side has reached under their baton is one of the reasons why they are still challenging for the supreme honour.
But when Derry confront Laois in tonight's semi-final replay at Navan (6.00), McMullan is convinced that the side will need to go the extra mile in more ways than one if they to secure an All Ireland Final meeting with Galway.
"To be honest, we were lucky enough to get a draw against Laois last Sunday. I have no doubt that had the game gone on for another minute or two we would have lost. Laois were flying at that point and it was something of a relief to hear the final whistle," says McMullan.
And the depression that engulfed the Derry dressing-room in the immediate aftermath of the game evoked concerns that the players might find it difficult to raise themselves for episode two.
"But we need not have worried on that score. Derry senior team manager Paddy Crozier managed to get his hands very quickly on a DVD of Sunday's game from some RTE people and we were able to watch it on the coach on the way home.
"By the time we got to Cookstown we had dissected the game sufficiently to believe that we will have more than a fighting chance now in tonight's replay," explains McMullan.
And his optimism was further heightened following Tuesday night's squad session at the Owenbeg complex in Dungiven.
"You could tell by the demeanour of the boys when they came in that they had got Sunday's game out of their system and were focused solely on winning tonight. We had a brilliant session, the mood was just right and the self-belief was resurrected again," maintains McMullan.
The fact that Laois scored 1-5 in the last seven minutes of last Sunday's game stung Derry, according to McMullan.
"There's no doubt about it, they dominated us in the last part of the game. But then Minor players tend to be resilient - we have not dwelt too much on what Laois did, rather on what we ourselves should have been doing. We get the chance to out things right at Navan" insists McMullan.
And while some Derry players played above and beyond the call of duty against Laois, McMullan stresses that in different games various players have stepped up to the mark.
" In the Ulster final against Tyrone, Carlus McWilliams and Chris McCaigue were superb. Then in the All Ireland quarter-final Declan Mullan scored three great points while James Kielt struck a stunning goal. Then last week-end Aidan Herron was magnificent at centre-half-back while Caolan O'Boyle and Neil Forrester were also impressive," points out McMullan.
Tonight he will settle for an overall team effort against a Laois team that will again look to John O'Loughlin, Conor Meredith and Donie Kingston for inspiration.
If he gets that, McMullan feels that Derry will have cause for celebration.
DERRY: A Warnock; M McKinney, C McWilliams, D Bell; C McKaigue, J F Bradley, B Henry; J Kielt, C O'Boyle; S Cleary, A Heron, D Mullan; N Forrester, G McGeechan, L Moore.