Pride in Ulster restored by Derry
Published 04/09/2007 | 08:05
Ulster football has had little to shout about so far this season.
But Derry minors put that to rest with an impressive victory over Laois in the ESB All Ireland minor semi-final replay in Navan to securing a place in the All Ireland decider against Galway on Sunday week.
A week earlier the Oak Leaf boys had to settle for a replay after surrendering an eight-point lead.
It didn't augur well for their prospects in the replay.
Even in Derry there was some talk that they had missed the boat, but this is a side laced with character, resilience and sheer tenacity - not to mention real quality.
Five years ago Ballinderry grabbed the sporting headlines when claiming the All Ireland club title.
On Saturday night in Navan a Ballinderry clubman was the catalyst for a remarkable victory.
Full forward Gavin McGeehan was a revelation in the number 14 jersey.
He was simply unstoppable with a stunning man of the match performance which saw him directly involved in all four Derry goals.
For one so young he showed great maturity and his manager and club colleague Niall Conway was quick to acknowledge his contribution.
"There had been a lot of talk about some of the Laois players like Donal Kingston and Zac Tuohy, but we always knew that Gavin was just as capable in every respect," said Conway.
"In the first-half we kicked in a lot of ball into our full forward line and it paid dividends, but in the second-half we weren't able to do that."
But Conway warned that they must raise their game to a new level if they are to beat a strongly fancied Galway.
Still it was a huge improvement on their form in the drawn game when they squandered an eight-point lead in the last seven minutes, half back Zac Tuohy helping hit them with two goals, the second a real contender for goal of the season.
This time though Derry kept him on a tight rein so much so that he had to settle for a single point.
Derry boss Conway was determined that his boys would head to Navan for the replay very focused and extremely positive.
" There was nothing to be gained from dwelling too much on what happened in the last eight minutes of the drawn match," he said.
" Instead we sat down and watched a video of the drawn game concentrating on our first half display when we scored 10 great points.
"We deliberately focused on the things we did well and the boys were determined not to let it slip a second time."
Laois in the end had to settle for second best, but they did themselves irreparable harm when having two players sent off.
Derry though had no such problems, keeping their composure, often in difficult circumstances to carve out the sweetest of victories.