Derry 2-12 Kerry 1-14
An enthralling final of incredible quality ended with Derry winning their first All-Ireland minor title since 2002 on Sunday afternoon, as they came through a rollercoaster of a finale in Tullamore.
Even stripping away the incredible drama that the teams provided in second-half stoppage time, this was a fantastic contest, which was laden with skill and intensity and played at a very fast pace.
By the end of the game, it was utter chaos on the field as first Kerry and then Derry scored goals that changed the likely outcome of the game over and back.
The sense of heartbreak among the Derry supporters in the stadium was palpable when Maurice O’Connell toe-poked in his goal at the start of stoppage time, but that sense of panic wasn’t shared on the Oak Leaf sideline, according to manager Martin Boyle.
“I was turning around, chatting to one of my selectors, trying to make a sub, and I never saw it. I never flinched because I knew the character that’s in these boys and they’ve shown that time and again.
“We probably had a bit of an advantage because we came through a really tough Ulster campaign.
“Tyrone, Armagh, Monaghan, then on to Meath and Kerry, I don’t know if there’s ever been a harder All-Ireland won, so that definitely stood to us.”
His faith was certainly tested at various stages, as the Kingdom controlled the first half and were full value for their 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead.
Matthew Downey and Eoin McEvoy kicked good scores for Derry in the opening five minutes of the contest, but the Ulster champions added just two more in the next 25 as the Kerry defence took over.
Derry needed a break to come their way and they got it when Cillian Burke had a goal chance on 39 minutes that was well saved by goalkeeper Kian McGonigle.
Twenty seconds later, Derry had swept the ball up the field and Lachlan Murray was palming in the game’s first goal.
They kicked on to lead by three points, their prosperity built on the foundation of some excellent defensive play from Lee Brady, Eoin McEvoy and Patrick McGurk.
Kerry, however, pegged it back to one going into stoppage time with points from Burke and Cian McMahon, even after the sending off of wing-forward Thomas O’Donnell for a second yellow card seemed to present an insurmountable hurdle in the searing heat.
Despite this dismissal, it seemed as if the Tom Markham Cup was headed south when miscommunication on a Derry kickout allowed substitute Maurice O’Connor to sneak in and toe-poke the ball over the goal line from all of 15m out.
On the next attack, though, Derry corner-forward Niall O’Donnell cut inside two players and fired for goal and Seán Broderick’s save was deemed to be a foot block.
Matthew Downey blasted the penalty to the roof of the net, leaving Kerry with just over two minutes to save their Championship.
Darragh Fleming, Oisín Maunsell and Cian McMahon all had difficult chances fall their way late on but only McMahon came close, shaving the outside of the post with his free-kick from the left sideline in what turned out to be the last play of the game.
“I was on my first decade of the rosary to be honest! said Oak Leaf manager Boyle of the tense finish.
“I fully expected it to go over the bar, and at that stage your mind was swinging around to having the game going into extra-time.
“Just to be competing in an All-Ireland final is simply massive, and to finish on the right side of the result gives everybody a boost.
“What it means is that what we’re doing at schools level and at underage level is right, because we are producing good players.”
Derry: K McGonigle; P McGurk, L Brady (0-1), A McGonigle; D Gilmore, E McEvoy (0-1), C Sheils; D Higgins, P O’Kane; J McDermott, M Downey (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-2f), M Doherty (0-2); N O’Donnell (0-1), L Murray (1-2), C Diamond (0-1f).
Subs: C Downey for Higgins (half-time, temp), C Downey (0-1) for Diamond (38), J Moore for McGonigle (49), R McEldowney for McDermott (59), P McCullagh for Murray (60+3).
Kerry: S Broderick (0-1, 45); D O’Callaghan, J Nagle, C O’Donoghue; P O’Leary, A Heinrich, K O’Sullivan; O Maunsell (0-2), C Burke (0-2); T O’Donnell, W Shine (0-2), K Evans (0-2); D O’Sullivan, A O’Shea (0-1), C McMahon (0-4, 0-2f).
Subs: J Kissane for D O’Sullivan (43), M O’Connell (1-0) for Shine (45), D Fleming for K O’Sullivan (49).
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)
Man of the match: Mark Doherty (Derry)