ULSTER FINAL: Derry minors facing High Noon shoot-out with Cavan at Clones

Derry manager Damian McErlain is expecting a tough challenge from a resilient Cavan side in Sunday's Ulster Minor Final at Clones.
Derry manager Damian McErlain is expecting a tough challenge from a resilient Cavan side in Sunday's Ulster Minor Final at Clones.

Back in 1952 possibly the best Western film ever made, a box office success for director Fred Zinnemann, tells the tale of how the Hadleyville marshal Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, defeats the Miller gang.

All film buffs of a certain age will remember that black and white classic High Noon!

On Sunday in Clones the clash of Derry and Cavan has a 12 noon throw-in, High Noon for two very talented and evenly matched teams in probably the last ever U18 provincial final as this competition will become an Under-17 competition from next season.

By the time Down and Tyrone run out at the lush sward of St. Tiernach’s Park in Clones there will be upwards on 34,000 packed into the ground but Derry and Cavan players are likely to be cheered onto the pitch by around a thousand or two voices!

Paudi McGrogan will lead out the Derry team, the Newbridge player on the Derry minor team that lost to Donegal in last year’s Ulster final.

Derry had a good run in the Ulster minor league and reached the final before losing to Tyrone in the league final.

McGrogan reflected on that early league final defeat: “It was probably one of the better things that happened to us. It hurt but we knew that there was one more day in the championship and we had to make everything right; that was the only day that mattered in our eyes.”

About the Cavan side he said: “They are a big physical side and have shown how strong they are as a unit. They came back from four points down in their games despite missing two or three of their players.”

The Derry captain is not thinking of the back door saying: “You don’t have another chance to win an Ulster final. For us so far it has been knock-out so we have that knockout mentality. That’s what we are going into the Ulster final.”

His brother Conor won an Ulster medal with Derry in 2015 and the Derry captain will hope to lead his side to a provincial title on Sunday to put alongside his older brother’s 2015 medal!

Both counties played two games en route to Sunday’s decider, Tyrone and Antrim falling to Derry, Monaghan and Down defeated by Cavan.

Derry will be seeking their 14th success, Cavan their 7th, the Oakleafers in their third successive decider and seeking to emulate the 2015 winners, the Breffni Boys looking for their first final victory since 2011.

Derry put in a very strong second half display to overpower their neighbours Tyrone in the first round at Celtic Park, the O’Neill County flattered by the 0-18 to 1-14 scoreline as their goal came from a last minute penalty.

In the Antrim game the game was over as a contest as Derry built a commanding lead en route to 3-17 to 0-10 route against a side that had beaten a fancied Donegal side in the first round.

The Derry scorers were - Oisin McWilliams 2-06, Lorcan McWilliams 0-05, Paddy Quigg 0-05, Fergal Mortimer 0-04, Ben McCarron 0-04, Richie Mullan 0-03, Conor McCloskey 1-00, Declan Cassidy 0-02, Mark McGrogan 0-02, Tiarnan McHugh, JP Devlin, Simon McErlain and Paudi McGrogan 0-01 each. Of Derry’s 3-35 tally 1-09 came from placed balls, the goal from a penalty.

The Cavan scorers were - Oisin Pierson 0-11, Cian Madden 1-05, James Smith 2-02, Patrick Lynch 0-06, Ruairi Curran 0-02, Ryan Coyle 0-02, Tiarnan Reilly and Sean Keoghan 0-01 each. Of Cavan’s 3-29 tally 0-08 came from placed balls.

Derry will go into this decider as favourites but Derry manager, Damian McErlain will be fully aware of the resilience and never-say- die spirit of the Breffni outfit, as they demonstrated by coming from three points in arrears against Monaghan at half-time and four points adrift at the same stage against Down!

In the game against Monaghan the Farney side scored eight unanswered points in the first half, while Cavan keeper Gary O’Rourke made three stunning saves in the closing stages, another fine save against Down in the semi-final coming at an opportune moment after the Mournemen had rattled in two early goals.

Derry manager, McErlain has not been afraid to ring the changes during their two championship games and the strength of the bench has proved decisive as the substitutes have played a key role in the two victories to date.

Indeed the strength of the squad will make the selection of the starting XV for Sunday’s game very difficult indeed as half a dozen of them made significant contributions that will certainly press their inclusion from the start of the final.

The Derry panel is: Oran Hartin (Limavady), Odhran Lynch (Magherafelt), Ryan Scullion (Ballinascreen), Matthew Smyth (Ballinderry), Odhran Quinn (Bellaghy), Conleth McShane (Bellaghy), Sean McKeever (Dungiven), Martin Bradley (Ballinascreen), Conor McCloskey (Magherafelt), Simon McErlain (Magherafelt), Oran McGill (Glen), Tiarnan Walsh (Swatragh), Peadar McLaughlin (Kilrea), Paudi McGuigan (captain) (Newbridge), Dara Rafferty (Drumsurn), Oisin McWilliams (Swatragh), Conor Quinn (Bellaghy), Callum Brown (Limavady), Lorcan Spier (Bellaghy), Lorcan McWilliams (Swatragh), Fergal Mortimer (Craigbane), Declan Cassidy (Bellaghy), Damon Gallagher (Bellaghy), Mark McGrogan (Newbridge), Jon Paul Devlin (Ballinascreen), Cormac Murphy, Tiarnan McHugh (Drumsurn), Alex Doherty (Glen), Riche

Mullan (Dungiven), Ben McCarron (Steelstown) and Paddy Quigg (Kilrea).

Richie Mullan picked up a slight injury in the Ulster Minor hurling championship defeat to Antrim but should be okay to start on Sunday to play a crucial role in the Derry attack. Ballinascreen’s Jon Paul Devlin picked up an injury in training and his well being will be monitored this week to see if he can recover for the match day panel.

Both teams have been very impressive on their run to the final but that status will be put to the test at Clones.

Derry would seem to have a more potent attack and will be fancied to lift the Fr Murray Cup and play Sligo, who lost 3-11 to 0-10 in the Connacht Final, in the All-Ireland quarter-final.