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McErlain urging his young Oak Leafs to rise to the occasion

By John Campbell

Published 21/05/2016

Derry manager Damian McErlain
Derry manager Damian McErlain

When Shea Downey lines out for Derry against Tyrone in tomorrow's Ulster Minor Football Championship quarter-final at Celtic Park (12pm), he will have a lot to live up to.

His dad Seamus won an All-Ireland Senior Championship medal with the Oak Leafs in 1993 which was skippered by his uncle Henry Downey.

But while the form of players such as Downey and the exciting Paddy Coney give manager Damien McErlain considerable hope going into tomorrow's match, the loss of key defender Eoin Concannon, who has a broken wrist, is a big blow.

"It's a great pity that we will be without Eoin as he is one of the mainstays of the team but we must get on with it," said McErlain, a director of the Genesis Bakery firm.

"Obviously Tyrone have an enviable record of producing good under-age teams so we know that we will be up against it."

Derry's hopes of success this year are bolstered by the triumph of St Patrick's College, Maghera in winning the MacRory Cup.

The south Derry seat of learning has proved a conveyor belt of talent for a succession of Derry minor sides and McErlain is hoping his players can rise to the occasion tomorrow.

In Tyrone, though, they will be facing a team that showed fine form in reaching the recent Ulster Minor League final in which they lost to Donegal.

In that competition, the Red Hands beat Derry by 3-13 to 1-14 and while McErlain sees tomorrow's match as a fresh challenge, nonetheless he respects the quality of the opposition.

"Tyrone will be keen to drive on so we know what to expect," he added.

In Emmet McNabb, Matthew McGleenan and Daniel Kerr, Tyrone boast a lively, skilful full-forward line while skipper James Devlin and Cahir Goodwin form a strong midfield partnership with Brian McNulty and Conall Grimes comprising the spine of the defence.

Tyrone manager Paul Devlin won Ulster Senior Championship medals with the county in 1995 and '96 having previously won an U21 medal in 1990.

Fiercely committed and harbouring a passionate pride for his county, Devlin is anxious to see the young Red Hands scoop what would be their first provincial title since 2012 - and he would be even more delighted if they could regain the coveted All-Ireland crown they last won in 2010.

Devlin insisted: "That would be great, but our whole focus is on this Derry game at the minute.

"They are at home, they have a good side and they will be very keen to prove themselves."

Tyrone: B Gallen; D McGuigan, B McNulty, J McGurk; T Corr, C Grimes, P Og McCartan; J Devlin, C Goodwin; B Molloy, T Carney, P Donaghy; E McNabb, M McGleenan, D Kerr.

Belfast Telegraph

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