Derry's minors beat Dublin to set up All-Ireland final date with Kerry
Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship semi-final: Derry 0-17 Dublin 0-14
YOU can have all the quality in the world but it’s worth nothing without a bit of belief.
Derry have obviously been producing the first part of that over the last few years, given that this was their third year in-a-row in the All-Ireland stages at minor level.
But that they will play in the last ever All-Ireland final at the grade Is a testament to how far the entire set-up has come over the last three years under Damian McErlain.
They were underdogs to a Dublin side that had forwards capable of winning any game, not least in James Doran, who kicked six points from play and could have had more.
But the Oak Leafers decided that the best form of defence was attack, and they were handsomely rewarded.
Derry dominated the opening 15 minutes at Croke Park by virtue of their absolute commitment to relentless pressure on the Dublin kickout. They gave David O’Hanlon nowhere to kick for a long time.
That pressure helped Derry build a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after 11 minutes, with Patrick Quigg kicking each of his side’s first three scores after Ross McGarry had landed the opening blow for Dublin.
Dublin’s problem solving came to the fore in the second quarter. Karl Lynch-Bissett had an aerial advantage over his marker and he became the outlet for four kickouts in that spell. It was the platform on which they nosed ahead at half-time.
Doran whistled a blistering 20-yard effort just over Oran Hartin’s crossbar to cut the gap back before the first of a couple of key moments towards the end of the half.
Daniel Brennan looked as though he was fouled going around Hartin but there was no Dublin penalty in front of the Hill, though they recycled to level the game through Ross McGarry.
Seconds after Quigg had kicked Derry level at 0-7 apiece, McGarry squeezed his way in along the endline and across the Derry goal but his shot was brilliantly repelled by the Limavady netminder.
David Lacey sent Dublin in one up and Derry might well have been worried by how effective their tactics had been and having no lead to show for it.
They’d had great displays from the McWilliams brothers and Conleth McShane, none of which have been unusual events this summer.
But they persisted with their bravery and indeed redoubled it. Padraig McGrogan’s yellow card almost proved a blessing in disguise as he was moved off Doran on to Lynch-Bissett, which led to that outball for the Dublin ‘keeper being shut down.
Dublin will look back with regret, all the same. They put a power press on at the start of the second half and created three good chances, but took none of them.
Indeed, Derry spent a portion of the third quarter just hanging on, but that is to take nothing from their full-back line.
Oran McGill, Conor McCluskey and Sean McKeever were left to their own devices and while there was a last-ditch nature about some of it, their efforts to keep a clean sheet were as remarkable as they were important.
“Each one of them had an immense second half,” enthused Damian McErlain.
“I’m really pleased with the last 15 minutes, they were under intense pressure and on the day that it was, so humid out there that our energy levels were sapped – but our decision-making and score-taking was absolutely superb.”
McGarry got in behind when Dublin were 0-11 to 0-10 ahead and looked certain to score but Conor McCluskey got enough pressure to make him turn, and then blocked the shot away for a 45.
Virtually the same thing occurred at 0-12 apiece when it was McGill and McKeever that combined to shut down a great chance for Sean Hawkshaw.
And in the dying minutes, big hits from Callum Brown and McGill repelled late Dublin efforts in the seven added minutes.
Brown was one of a number of subs that had a major impact.
Declan Cassidy was influential around the middle while the lively JP Devlin managed to make a splash in the final nine minutes, winning a crucial free and scoring the last point.
“We’ve talked about the squad all year and every one of them was immense, every one made an impact,” said McErlain.
“This is a strong group. Their mentality, their ability, their physicality, it’s probably the strongest group we’ve had. As a management, this is our third year’s experience as well, which makes a difference.
“When we won Ulster there was no sitting on a cloud for three weeks. Now we’re preparing for a mighty challenge against the Kingdom.”
Kerry, and David Clifford, will present a bigger task on September 17 but if Derry stick by their beliefs, they’ll not be far away.
Derry: O Hartin; O McGill, C McCluskey, S McKeever; S McErlain, P McGrogan, C McShane; O McWilliams (0-1), D Rafferty; P Quigg (0-5, 0-3 frees), R Mullan (0-1), O Quinn; B McCarron (0-3, 0-2 frees), L McWilliams (0-6, 0-5 frees), M McGrogan (0-1)
Subs: F Mortimer for Rafferty (29), C Brown for Quinn (32), D Cassidy for Quigg (35), M Bradley for McErlain (56), JP Devlin (0-1) for McCarron (58), T McHugh for O McWilliams (64)
Dublin: D O’Hanlon; D Maher, P Ó Cofaigh Byrne, L Flatman; K Kennedy, N Matthews, E O’Dea; D Ryan, M Tracey; D Brennan, J Doran (0-6), K Lynch-Bissett; R McGarry (0-2), S Hawkshaw (0-1), D Lacey (0-5, 0-4 frees)
Subs: F O’Sullivan for Brennan (40), C Archer for Hawkshaw (46), G Nangle for Ó Cofaigh Byrne (51), A Byrne for Lynch-Bissett (58), L Doran for Maher (62)
Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary)