DERRY GAA: Oak Leaf Minors at full strength for Dublin test

Derry manager Damian McErlain. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)
Derry manager Damian McErlain. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

Electric Ireland All Ireland Minor Football Semi-final: Derry v Dublin

DERRY minor manager Damian McErlain refuses to accept his team will be underdogs when they travel to Croke Park this Sunday to take on Dublin in the All Ireland semi-final (Throw-in 2pm).

McErlain has a full panel to choose from ahead of the trip the headquarters and while most pundits have been quick to install Tom Gray’s Dubs as favourites on home turf, that’s not a synopsis the Magherafelt man agrees with.

“So everybody keeps telling us (that Dublin are favourites) but we don’t look at it like that,” explained the Derry manager, “Nobody knows. I say this every year. Nobody has a clue.

“Only the people inside the realms of minor football have a feel for which is the better side and I’d say these look two evenly matched teams.

“We have full belief we are going down there to win a match. We are not going down to roll over.”

The Leinster champions accounted for Clare in their quarter-final and have a number of dangerous forward such as playmaker James Doran, full forward Seán Hawkshaw and Ross McGarry who form a dangerous three pronged attack.

“They are a big strong athletic side with strength in depth. Every player they bring on is as equally athletic as the man they replace. They have two or three quality forwards in terms of boys who are getting on the scoresheet regularly

“They are a good side with a different spread of scorers on any given day so we will have to limit the supply that goes in to them.

Derry retain a number of players from last year’s quarter-final defeat to Kerry at Croke Park and McErlain is hoping that experience will stand to them this weekend.

“We will enjoy the build-up and watching the Tyrone-Dublin game after our game if we win. That’s part of the experience. Some of the players from last year have already said playing in Croke Park means nothing if you don’t win. We have players from last year who know that and it’s not a bad place to be.”

And McErlain has no concerns about his players handling the occasion.

“We have had no issues concerning focus. The Sligo game was a good game to show us there was still plenty of work to do. The players have worked really hard over the past couple of weeks, they have really upped the ante.

“They understand the importance of playing the match and enjoying the occasion afterwards and that’s what we are going in to do. We have a job to do,” he added.