Kerry 1-24, Derry 2-10
IT wasn’t the way the journey was supposed to end.
On the day Kerry were the undisputed kings of minor football but Derry’s journey back to Croke Park marked the upward spiral of improvement at this grade after years in the wilderness.
Like the Ulster final, Derry were out of the blocks early on and settled well in the surroundings of the theatre of dreams.
Seamus Higgins, Paddy Coney and Caolan Devlin put Derry in control but it was short-lived.
The Munster champions when they got into their stride hit three points of their own from centre forward Sean O’Shea.
It was an exhibition of forward play at times and Derry were in danger of being overrun.
O’Shea, David Clifford and David Shaw scored 1-16 between them but Derry settled and battled back into the game.
Paddy Quigg bagged Derry’s first goal after Simon McErlarin passed forward. Bill Courtney denied him at first but Quigg was first to the rebound.
Fergal Higgins scored Derry’s second goal after dancing around the Kerry defence and slotting to the net to leave the half-time score, Derry 2-6 to Kerry 0-12.
Daniel O’Brien scored the first score of the second half but disaster struck for Derry. They coughed up possession under Kerry pressure and seconds later Sean O’Shea had the ball in the net.
Now in control Kerry were able defend in numbers to prevent Derry scoring the goals they needed to get back into the game.
Derry: Ben McKinless, Conor McCluskey, Gearóid McLaughlin, Aaron Bradle, Pádraig McGrogan (0-1), Eoghan Concannon, Simon McErlain, Patrick Coney (0-3), Conor Doherty, Séamus Higgins (0-1), Caolan Devlin (0-3, 3 frees), Patrick Quigg (1-0), Shea Downey, Feargal Higgins (1-2, 1f), Eoghan Bradley.
Subs: Odhrán McKeever for E Concannon (33), Oisín McWilliams for S Downey (37), Seán Mortimer for G McLaughlin (43), Ronan Young for C Doherty (45), L Kielt for E Bradley (51), John Paul Devlin for C McCluskey.
Kerry: Billy Courtney, David Naughton, Niall Collins, Graham O’Sullivan, Michael Potts (0-1), Daniel O’Brien (0-2), Mícheál Foley, Mike Breen (0-1), Mark Ryan (0-1), Dara Moynihan (0-1), Seán O’Shea (c ) (1-6, 1 free), David Shaw (0-5), David Clifford (0-5), Bryan Sweeney, Ferdia O’Brien (0-1)
Subs: Brian Friel for F O’Brien (HT), Caolim Teehan (0-1) for B Sweeney (44), Stefan Okunbar for M Ryan (55), Kieran Dwyer for M Potts (56), Cormac Linnane for D Moynihan (58), Tomás O’Connell for D Clifford (inj)
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).