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McCarron's birthday on hold in quest for All-Ireland joy


By John Campbell

Ben McCarron has an added incentive to see Derry come good against Kerry in Sunday's attractive All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final.

Not only is the willowy corner forward anxious to take delivery of what would be his first national honour, but he sees victory for his county as the ideal birthday present.

McCarron will reach the age of 17 tomorrow, just 48 hours before the showdown, but the family's celebrations will be put on hold until after the game.

"Kerry are an amazing team, and in David Clifford they have an unbelievable player, but they have 14 others that we have to take into account as well," stated McCarron.

"We are certainly not going up to Croke Park just to make up the numbers. We are going there to give it our best shot. Obviously it's a big, big ask for us."

Derry will enter the game boosted by five Championship wins in succession but Kerry will be far and away the toughest opponents they will confront this year.

"We have a lot of players in the side who are very skilful and we are a very close, tight group," explained McCarron. "We like to think we have our own ration of talent. Hopefully we will be there or thereabouts and it's just about getting over the line as far as we are concerned."

McCarron, like the rest of his colleagues, believes that manager Damian McErlain is proving an inspirational force this term.

"He's an unbelievable man," said McCarron.

"Everything round our camp is so professional. Every player is keen to be part of it all, no one is left on the sideline. Even if you are not in the starting team you are still happy to be involved because of the close bond within the squad.

"Damian has created that environment and he continues to nurture it. His job is made easy because all the boys have bought into his philosophy and they are very keen to succeed for him."

McCarron's effusive praise of McErlain is echoed by wing-forward Patrick Quigg, who has been a consistent scorer for the Oak Leafs this year as well as undertaking vital work in linking the defence and the attack.

"Damian is a good manager and leader," insisted Quigg. "Everything is just so organised. He leads the way and we just follow. That's the way it has been since he took over.

"He certainly knows what he is at and that's the main reason why our team has been successful recently, but we are certainly not getting carried away.

"We know that the biggest test lies ahead for us on Sunday against a Kerry side that have been winning Munster and All-Ireland titles for fun recently so they will be difficult to stop."

Quigg is one of several players who has garnered considerable experience at minor level, something that McErlain himself feels can stand the team in good stead on Sunday.

"It's great to be going back to Croke Park having won a match there when we beat Dublin last month," he said.

"It's just magical to be in the All-Ireland final and to be honest I think this is the strongest group of players we have had over the course of the past three years, so I believe that we are in with a real chance providing we play to the maximum of our ability."

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