Derry 1-11, Cavan 0-11
Derry are the 2015 Ulster Minor Football champions after Shane McGuigan inspired Damian McErlaine’s men to a three points win over Cavan in Clones.
The Slaughtneil forward helped himself to five points from play in a brilliant individual display but his Derry team mates were not far behind him with goalkeeper Ben McKinless, a late replacement for the injured Callum Young Mullan - called on to make two excellent second half saves.
The Oak Leafers now move forward to an All Ireland Quarter Final meeting with Longford but they were made to work hard for victory as Cavan fought back from a six point half time deficit to come within one score of forcing a draw.
In the end Tiarnan Flanagan’s goal, one minute before the interval, proved decisive and it was a goal Cavan goalkeeper will want to forget as he could only help the Glen forward’s shot into the net when he looked to have it covered.
Cavan had started in impressive fashion forcing Derry on to the back foot from the first whistle with half back Dillon Raythorne helping himself to two excellent points inside the opening five minutes. Within the same time frame, Cavan had also watched two efforts strike the post but gradually Derry composed themselves and played their way back into the game.
McGuigan claimed the Oak Leafers first point on 10 minutes after a flowing move and within seconds the growing presence of Conor Glass had held off three Cavan defenders to level to game at two points a-piece.
Derry made it three points in two minutes to take the lead when McGuigan registered his second point of the game and it was 0-4 to 0-2 when Patrick Kearney scored with a fabulous long range effort.
Derry’s foothold in the game had coincided with the emergence of Kearney and Jack Doherty as a midfield force, providing a superb basis for a succession of balls which found the hard running front men.
A Darragh Gannon free reduced the deficit to one but Kearney responded for Derry with his second excellent score of the game to restore the two points advantage by the 15th minute.
Another Gannon free kept Cavan in touch but Derry were bossing matter with Glass, Doherty and Kearney taking advantage of some superb Oak Leaf tackling to launch wave after wave of attacks, most of which were finding McGuigan who was almost untouchable. The Slaughtneil man made it 0-6 to 0-4 with a superb score off his left foot from the right wing before repeating the trick for his fourth point from play inside 25 minutes.
In between McGuigan’s two points Gannon had grabbed his first from play but Cavan were struggling against a well organised Derry rear guard. Not content to watch his strike partner hogging the first half limelight, Barry Grant made it 0-8 to 0-5 before that crucial Flanagan goal gave Derry a comfortable but full deserved six point half-time lead.
Cavan made a double change at half-time as Danny Brady tried to get his side back into the game but it was Derry who remained in charge with Kearney grabbing his third point from play on 36 minutes to increase the Oak Leafers lead.
With Derry stretching away it already looked like Cavan might need a goal and they almost got it when David Brady superb caught Darragh Kennedy’s high centre. The midfielder who had been pushed up, turned and fired a low shot which Ben McKinless did brilliantly to block with his body. The young Ballinderry keeper almost went from hero to villain when he was caught in possession as he tried to bring the ball out. He was forced to concede the foul which allowed Brady to bring it back to 1-9 to 0-06 from the consequent free.
Shea Downey, son of former Derry All Ireland winner Seamus, grabbed a point but Cavan were throwing everything forward with Brady causing all sorts of trouble since moving to full forward. That had been countered by Glass dropping back but moving the Glen playmaker back seemed to hand the initiative to Cavan as substitute Conor Smith brought it back to a six point game at 1-10 to 0-07 on 42 minutes.
Brady then sent over a 45m free to reduce the deficit further but McGuigan underlined his brilliant display with a quite outrageous point from wide out on the left touchline but Cavan maintained their momentum. Further points from Thomas Edward Donohue and Raythorne left four between the teams with seven minutes remaining.
Cavan continued to pepper the Derry posts but with only a late point from Smith, Derry were able to hold out to claim their fist minor title since the All Ireland winning team of 2002.
Derry: Ben McKinless; Niall Keenan, Conor McGrogan, Conor Maunsell; Oisin Duffin, Michael McEvoy, Eoghan Concannon; Patrick Kearney (0-3), Jack Doherty; Patrick Coney, Shea Downey (0-1), Conor Glass (0-1); Tiarnan Flanagan (1-0), Barry Grant (0-1), Shane McGuigan (0-5). (Subs) Fergal Higgins for B Grant, 37mins; Francis Kearney for T Flanagan, 54mins; Niall McAtamney for P Coney, 57mins;
Cavan: Fergal O’Rourke; Patrick O’Reilly, Donal Monahan, Luke Fortune; Dillon Raythorne (0-3), Shane Fortune, David Wilson; David Brady (0-2, 2f), Conor Brady; Darragh Gannon (0-3, 2f), Paul Leddy, Ryan O’Neill; Darragh Kennedy, Thomas Edward Donogue (0-1), Robbie Fitzpatrick. (Subs) Conor Smith (0-2) for R Fitzpatrick, H/T; Rhys Clarke for P Leddy, H/T; Lewis Fay Cooper for S Fortune, 42mins;Stephen Smith for R O’Neill, 55mins; Eoghan Cooney for T Donohoe, 56mins;
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)