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Derry eager to take second bite of the cherry

By Declan Bogue

Derry minor manager Damian McErlain has admitted he is somewhere in the dark about how his players are set, ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland minor quarter-final against Kerry (Croke Park, throw-in 12noon).

The Oak Leafers lost their Ulster minor title earlier this month when goals from Nathan and JD Doyle proved timely body blows as Donegal won the battle of the north west.

However, the following day brought about this weekend's plum tie and, according to McErlain, did the management's job of focusing minds for them.

"It certainly gave the lads a lift," the Magherafelt man admitted.

"To be honest there is no looking back. And to be fair to the boys, we feel we performed well in the Ulster final and we didn't take a hammering.

"The lads have full belief in the performance level that day. A lot of the things we said we were going to do, we did do and the breaks, the two goals just came at a critical time for Donegal, they gave them a bit of breathing space.

"Mentally, there is no hangover in terms of how to lift ourselves out of it. There is more a hunger and a desire to get back out there."

Derry minors have a number of players who had been involved in the St Pat's Maghera school team defeated in the Hogan Cup final by another Kerry opposition, St Brendan's of Killarney.

While the team is not top-heavy with St Pat's players, McErlain conceded that the experience of playing already in Croke Park can be tapped into.

"We had a couple of lads back from last year, 10 of them overall in the squad. They won't want to come back to Croke Park and be beaten again. Croke Park is a special place, but it's only a special place if you win," he said.

"For some of the boys, who have two or three defeats, they realise that now."

McErlain and his backroom team, numbering 10 in total, were in Killarney for Kerry's minor final win over Cork.

In assessing their qualities, he said: "From one to 15 are comfortable on the ball, which is what you would expect from most Kerry teams.

"That makes them efficient, they do the simple things well."

He urges his players to focus on the game at hand, in order to make it back for the semi-final.

"Our line this week has been typically, 'Don't worry about it this week. If you win this match, you will get another chance to enjoy it, so don't worry about enjoying it this week, go out and win the match,'" he added.

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