Derry U17 manager Paddy Campbell says good times set to roll for Oak Leaf seniors
DERRY manager Paddy Campbell believes the county’s dominance in under-age football will bring the good times back in the not too distant future.
The Oak Leafs dropped down to Division Four of the Allianz Football League this year as an alarming downward spiral continued, but Campbell is certain the future is bright.
He guided his side to the provincial Under 17 Championship final on Sunday, a week after the first ever Ulster U20 Football Championship title was won by Derry.
The county has also claimed the last three Ulster Minor titles, and former Donegal defender Campbell believes it’s just a matter of time before those players begin to excel on the senior stage.
“It shows the strength in Derry football. I know the seniors got relegated and were unlucky to meet Donegal and Kildare – two very good teams – in the championship, but the future is still very bright for Derry football,” he said.
“The under 20s won Ulster and they are in an All-Ireland semi-final in two weeks time and it would be great to be on the same day as them. it would be brilliant for these young players.”
Derry scored a 2-10 to 1-8 win over Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds to book their place in the Ulster final.
“We had the team well prepared considering they had exams and club football so I am delighted,” said Campbell, who is now preparing for a title shoot-out against Monaghan, 2-16 to 2-4 winners over Cavan in the other semi-final, the opening game on a double bill at the Athletic Grounds.
“They are great lads and have great character.
“At the start of the years no one gave us a chance at all so to be playing in an Ulster final in a couple of weeks is outstanding for these young lads.”
Derry have taken the long route to the final, via the Qualifier route, and their manager felt a couple of tough games helped to build character.
“It shows the character of the players.
“Against a class Monaghan team we were 0-8 to 0-1 down at half-time, against Cavan we had double extra-time and even though we lost that game, we didn't mind too much because we saw great character again from the lads and we knew they had that in the tank.”
And now the Oak Leafers are preparing to face Monaghan for a second time, with a trophy at stake this time.
“We know Monaghan have great character in the tank, they came against a Donegal team that were dominating them, they beat a very good Cavan team very well.
“Monaghan are an outstanding team. Physically they are bigger than us but we are in the final and we will prepare as well as we can for it.
“We know them very well and I'm sure Banty (Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney) will prepare them very well.
“He knows our team well and had another good look. We all know each other very well but we want to focus on our own game.
“We bring a lot of good things to a game of football.
“Maybe a couple of player were quiet where we wanted them to shine. it didn't happen for them tonight but hopefully it will happen for them next time.”