Derry can claim historic Ulster minor title by beating Cavan
Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship final: Cavan v Derry (Sunday, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, 12pm)
A LITTLE bit of history is set to be made at St Tiernach’s Park tomorrow as the last provincial minor U18 champions will be crowned with the U17 competition taking centre stage from next season.
The honour will belong to either Cavan or Derry with the pair showing both beauty and brawn, not necessarily in equal measure, to reach this point.
Both counties have had to dig in – Derry having to show plenty of defensive maturity to shut down Tyrone’s star players in the quarter-final and Cavan overturning half-time deficits against both Monaghan and Down.
Attacking threat has been the main weapon for both though, and that has raised expectations of a free-flowing, entertaining contest.
Damian McErlain, currently being linked with the vacant Derry senior team job, has guided the Oakleafers to a third Ulster final in as many years.
They were victorious against the Breffni county in 2015 while they came up just short of Donegal last year. Many within Derry, and some from outside, believe that this current crop is the best of the three sides McErlain has managed.
They racked up 3-35 in the wins over Tyrone and Antrim with 13 different players getting on the scoresheet.
Oisin McWilliams actually tops their scoring with 2-6 but it’s likely he will start in the middle of the pitch to combat Cavan’s impressive duo there – James Smith and Ronan Patterson.
The latter’s day ended early in the semi-final win over Down due to a black card, and manager John Brady will be hoping that there’s more time for the pairing to flourish in Clones.
Like Derry, Cavan have been scoring heavily and hit 3-14 against Monaghan and 0-15 against Down.
Cian Madden has been at the heart of so much of their good forward play in both a play-making and scoring role and the feeling within Cavan is that he will have a bright future at senior level.
He’s not alone in that. Gowna’s Oisin Pierson has scored some absolute gems while Ruairi Curran will also bring plenty to the table – if he is passed fit.
Brady’s worry is probably at the other end of the pitch with his side’s defence being exposed regularly against both Monaghan and Down.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for goalkeeper Gary O’Rourke they probably wouldn’t be at this juncture. The Ballyhaise man made three super saves in the late stages of their win over the Farney county and he also pulled off another brilliant stop against Down.
Brady will need leaders, like team captain Paddy Meade, to really step up at the back to curb the threat of the likes of Lorcan McWilliams and Paddy Quigg.
Do that and they have a real chance of claiming a first Fr Murray Cup since 2011.
It’s easier said than done though and McErlain’s men look well placed to secure a second title in three years for Derry.
The Leinster Minor title will also be decided tomorrow with Dublin meeting Louth at Croke Park.
This is the Wee county’s first final appearance since 1971 and they are chasing their first title since 1953.
Dublin’s dominance of the competition is nothing like the county’s senior team, but they are hoping to claim their fifth title in nine years.