For a county that has been starved of meaningful football success for more years than they may care to remember, the arrival of Derry in the 2020 All-Ireland minor football championship is being viewed as a considerable shot in the arm for the sport in Oak Leaf territory.
Coming as it does in the immediate aftermath of the senior team’s elevation to Division Two of the Allianz League, the minor side’s emergence indicates that all is well at grassroots level.
The efficient manner in which Martin Boyle’s enterprising U17 outfit disposed of Meath in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final suggests that they will not look out of place in the decider against Kerry.
In winning by 1-14 to 1-7, Derry cemented the widely-held belief that they are a fiercely-driven, ambitious side who believe the job will not be properly finished until the silverware is brought home.
“These lads have a great mind-set, they won’t hear of the word defeat. They can’t wait to get into action in the final,” enthuses manager Boyle.
Yet when they were on level terms with Meath at half-time (0-4 each) there were some misgivings that Derry might prosper after the break.
But the players had other ideas and quickly put them into operation. The hugely impressive Matthew Downey brought his overall points haul to eight, Dan Higgins tucked away the all-important goal and with the remainder of the side putting their collective shoulder to the wheel, a place in the All-Ireland final became a more potent hope and then a reality.
But Kerry’s emphatic 3-21 to 2-13 win over Roscommon in yesterday’s second semi-final suggest that Derry will now be confronted by an enormous challenge in the decider.
Meanwhile, the Armagh v Monaghan Ulster senior football championship semi-final will take place at Pairc Esler, Newry next Saturday (4.00) while the second semi-final between Tyrone and Donegal has been fixed for Brewster Park, Enniskillen on Sunday (1.45).