Boyle keen for minors to play their part in Derry double bid
THE good times are rolling again for Derry, and Clones will be rocking at the double on Sunday.
For the first time in 22 years, two Oak Leaf teams will take centre stage at St Tiernach's Park on Ulster final day, contesting the minor championship title with Tyrone ahead of the Anglo-Celt Cup decider against Donegal.
Unlike the seniors, the minors have seen regular involvement in the provincial decider as they prepare for a sixth appearance in eight seasons, picking up three titles in that time, as well as the 2020 All-Ireland crown.
“As soon as the seniors qualified, it was something that we talked about,” said minor team manager Martin Boyle.
“You wanted to be in Clones this Sunday, and you wanted to be there playing rather than sitting in the stand.
“It's all building up to a brilliant weekend for Derry. The year 2000 was the last time the seniors and minors were in the final on the same day, so it's been too long.
“There's a real buzz around the county at the minute, and for a group of young lads of 16, 17 year old, that certainly won't do them any harm.”
And with players from that successful 2020 side beginning to push for senior involvement, the rewards are palpable.
“Lachlan Murray is the only one that has played, he came on against Tyrone and came on in the last few minutes against Monaghan.
“It does give you great satisfaction, and for other young fellows it shows – there's my pathway lying in front of me there if I really want to commit to this.
“It's exciting, because we feel Derry is going to have a competitive senior team now for the next number of years.”
The mood at Owenbeg has never been brighter, Derry's training ground a hive of happy activity and a seedbed for optimism.
“There's a feel-good factor around Owenbeg. Owenbeg is a special place to be.
“The uniqueness of Owenbeg is that on a Saturday morning, you have the seniors, the minors, the 15 and 16 Development squads walking about, and they're all passing each other in the corridor.
“It's a brilliant place to be, particularly for cubs. Their pathway is there in front of them, it's a brilliant environment and a really good place to be for any cub that's aspiring to play county football.”
Derry and Tyrone have already met in the Ulster MFL final this season, with the Red Hands scraping a one point win at Glen.
Significant progress has been made since then, as a talented squad gathered momentum following a slow start to the campaign.
“We did gain a bit of confidence out of that, because with no development squad activity, you didn't know really where you were at,” Boyle recalled.
“We got our boys quite late, because St Pat's won the Ranafast mid-March, and we only really had the full group together one week before the start of the League.
“Going into that League final there was a bit of trepidation, because Tyrone had blown everybody away in the League, and we were wondering where we were at.
“So we were delighted that day with how we performed against a really good quality side, and we did take a fair bit of confidence from that day.
“This weekend, it will be a drier pitch, so it will have probably limited relevance.”