Derry manager Damian McErlain expects Dublin’s pace to cause his side problems

The Oak Leaf side continue their quest for a second successive All-Ireland title

Damian McErlain also managed Derry to the 2017 MFC All-Ireland final.
Damian McErlain says his Derry side will be wary of the pace of Dublin. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Electric Ireland All-Ireland MFC quarter-final

Derry v Dublin (Saturday, Kingspan Breffni, 1pm)

DERRY minor manager Damian McErlain is fully aware of the pace that will test his side’s All-Ireland credentials this afternoon in Kingspan Breffni.

He was present at Dublin’s Leinster final defeat at the hands of Longford. Seeing teams in the flesh is the true barometer of what threat they carry.

It brought back memories of last season and Derry’s semi-final win over the Dubs. The speed of Noah Byrne asked questions until Odhrán Campbell moved across to extinguish the fire on that occasion, and McErlain expects more of the same this afternoon.

“Dublin have that sort of pace in six or seven positions all over the pitch,” he said.

“They have boys carrying the ball and overlapping, supporting each other, so I can see that as a big threat.”

Senan Bolger has hit 5-6 across six Championship outings for the Dubs, with Donach Magee and Rían Doherty their other main scorers.

Wing-backs Josh Kennedy and Ryan Ennis have also chipped in with their share of scores.

That’s where Eamon Young’s influence going the other way must peg Dublin back. There was a concern with Ger Dillon’s knee after his impressive performance in the Ulster decider win over Armagh.

Luke Grant has been a pivotal player on the overlap for Derry this season. It will be interesting to see if he will be handed the role of hammering the hammer against Bolger. Grant’s forward gear could force Dublin’s key player to use reverse.

McErlain is now in his fifth season as minor boss. He knows how it works and sees Dublin as the season’s reset button. The league and provincial championships have been and gone with the eight top teams left in the hat to lift the Tom Markham Cup.

The fact Dublin are the quarter-final opponents will have helped perk up the Derry ears over the last two weeks.

“Dublin had multiple opportunities to score goals in the first 20 minutes and over the course of the game against Longford,” said McErlain.

With 90 seconds remaining, Dublin had one hand on the cup before Longford’s Mark Cooney showed nerves of steel to land a pressure kick between the posts to force extra-time.

McErlain also pointed to late goals from Bolger and Shane Devane to sink Kildare in the dying embers of the Leinster semi-final as evidence that the Dubs will not roll over.

Derry will have to focus on their own side of the deal but they’ve shown a steely underbelly to match their silky skills.

After losing the group game between the counties by 17 points, Armagh maintained their shifting defensive structure ahead of the Ulster final.

A 20th minute Eoin Duffy goal left Derry chasing the game momentarily before three points in succession gave them a lead they managed to maintain. But it took the patience and graft of a team beyond its years.

Dublin have no survivors from last season whereas Derry have five starters, with Dara McGuckin now a regular after chipping in during their All-Ireland-winning campaign.

The Oak Leafers, with James Sargent at their heart, have been favourites in every game to date. It goes with the territory.

Now the slate is clean. There are no safety nets. It’s black and white. Lose and you’re gone. Derry know it. Dublin know it. All-Irelands aren’t handed out. They have to be reached for and grabbed.