Battling Derry praised despite loss to Kerry
Kerry 1-11 Derry 1-06
Kerry proved a bridge too far for Derry in the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship at Croke Park when they came out on top in a semi-final tie which, like the curate's egg, was good in parts.
The Kingdom, buoyed by Andrew Barry and John Mark Foley at midfield and a display of top-class finishing from corner-forwards Michael Foley and Conor Geaney who between them snapped up 1-8 of their team's total, always held the whip hand apart from a brief spell in the third quarter.
While Derry's character and courage were never in question, their cohesion and creativity fell short of expectations - a fact conceded by their manager Damien McErlain.
"We made a sluggish start and most of the pressure that we faced came as a result of unforced errors," he said.
"Kerry had a physical edge on us all over the pitch and you would have to say that they were the better side on the day."
But he heaped praise on his defence, pinpointing what he felt were outstanding individual performances.
"I thought Niall Keenan and Eoghan Concannon were superb as was Conor McGrogan, but at the end of the day defeat was a bitter pill for us to have to swallow.
"We thought we were still in the game at half-time even though we had played very little up until then, but we were not able to step up after the break," conceded the Derry boss.
But he feels that solid foundations have been laid for the future at under-21 and senior level.
"I think that the players in this team have the ability to go on and deliver at those levels but it's important that we seek to improve our structures," he added.
The Ulster champions could only manage three points in the first-half whereas Kerry, who led by 0-5 to 0-1 by the 12th minute, enjoyed a 0-6 to 0-3 interval advantage.
But the Oak Leaf side struck it rich in the 33rd minute when left-full-back Conor Maunsell saw his hopeful 50m effort completely deceive goalkeeper Billy Courtney and end up in the Kerry net.
At 1-3 to 0-6 the match was back in the melting pot - but not for long.
Four minutes later Geaney applied the finishing touch to a flowing Kerry movement that projected his side into a 1-8 to 1-4 lead and a position of authority they retained until the final whistle.
Derry's cause was not helped when Shane McGuigan was shown a black card nor when they missed two easy scoring chances and then had a second goal.
In contrast, Foley and Geaney maintained their assault on the scoreboard - both converting chances in the closing minutes to further embellish their team's arrival in the All-Ireland decider.
KERRY: B Courtney; D Brosnan, J Foley, J Morgan; G White, M Breen, D O'Brien; A Barry 0-1, J M Foley 0-2; B O Seanachain, S O Shea, B Barrett; M Foley 1-3, B Sweeney, C Geaney 0-5 (3f). Subs: S O'Sullivan for Brosnan (38), M O'Connor for Breen (38), G O'Sullivan for Barrett (45), E Cronin for O Shea (55).
DERRY: C Mullan-Young; N Keenan, C McGrogan, C Maunsell 1-0; O Duffin, M McEvoy, E Concannon; P Kearney, J Doherty; P Coney, S Downey, C Glass 0-1 (f); T Flanagan, F Kearney 0-2, S McGuigan 0-2. Subs: N McAtamney 0-1 for P Kearney (half-time), G McLoughlin for Duffy (34), F Higgins for Maunsell (41), B Grant for Coney (41), S Higgins for McGuigan (48). Black card: S McGuigan (48).
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)