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Derry can repeat glory of '02: Brown

By John Campbell

When Derry won the All Ireland Minor football championship title five years ago, the hope then was that the bulk of the players might bring success at senior level to the county further down the line.

This did not quite materialise, though.

But as the Oak Leaf county once again prepare to do battle for the biggest prize in the Minor arena, the man who guided the side to glory in '02 has no doubt that the current squad is a special breed.

Chris Brown proved that skill, character and rampant desire allied to a solid team ethic invariably forms a successful cocktail as he engineered a significant coup for his county.

Today he fires out a message of encouragement to a Derry side who have taken this year's All Ireland series by storm having endured the heartbreak of losing the Ulster final to Tyrone by a controversial point.

"I have been hugely impressed with this Derry team," observes Bellaghy clubman Brown, "The way they have approached games, the attitude they have displayed - especially when the chips have been down - and their ability to dig deep suggest that they will give Galway a big test on Sunday."

Derry's march into the final has not been without its hiccups yet Brown maintains that the team is the stronger for this.

"They were given no chance against Cork in the quarter-final but that James Kielt goal put a different complexion on the game," he added. "Then in the drawn semi-final against Laois they built up a big lead only to end up rather lucky to get a draw.

"But they showed the depth of their character and composure in the replay. The fact that they scored four goals in that game underlines their attacking ability."

Certainly, current Derry boss Niall Conway has a rich seam of talent at his disposal.

And Brown points to the pace of Neil Forrester, the defensive solidity of Carlus McWilliams, the cool authority of Chris McCaigue and the marksmanship of Declan Mullan, Lee Moore and Aidan Herron in particular up front as key Derry assets.

"But really every player has a big role to play," said Brown. "And I firmly believe the fact that Derry have had an extra game - that replay win over Laois - will stand to them. They have bonded even closer, they have underlined their resilience and they have certainly fired out a warning to Galway."

But he recognises, too, that the westerners will be formidable opponents.

"Look at the way they dealt with Kerry who had the best player on the field in Barry John Walsh," he added. "Galway defended well, played with economy and kept their nerve. They are a very good side, high on quality and confidence."

Galway's demeanour both on and off the field has struck a chord with Brown.

"They appear to be very modest about what they have achieved to date and they certainly have the appearance of a side who are confident but far from complacent," he maintains.

Yet is a repeat of the glory of '02 on the cards for this Derry outfit? "Yes, I believe it is. These Derry boys can step up to the mark on Sunday and do themselves their county and their province proud," adds Brown.

Belfast Telegraph


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