This weekend will be the first time since 2000 that Derry senior and minor teams have shared the stage on Ulster final day, 22 years after Marty and Gavin Donaghy, Chris Collins and Co. defeated a Tyrone team including Sean Cavanagh, Peter Donnelly and Martin Penrose. These are heady times for Oak Leaf football with the county’s minors appearing in what will be a FIFTH provincial decider in the last seven years, a second in three years under Boyle who said he was delighted his players will be on the big stage in Clones.
“This week we had chatted about the prize on offer in the semi-final,” explained the Derry minor manager, “For a long time I have been chatting about the prize, that our seniors were going to be in Clones. Even before the Monaghan game I chatted about it and how we had to be there. Well, now we are and we wanted to be there playing, not watching.
“I’m absolutely delighted for the lads that they get to share in this experience, get to share the stage on the biggest days, Ulster Final day. We just said to them they have one of the best weeks of their lives ahead of them and to lap it up and enjoy, but get ready to go again.
“What a stage and what a lift. The boys have already felt the feeling around the country. The other things too is, these lads, I suppose we forget about it when we look at them, but they’re in the middle of exams - GCSEs and A Levels - and that’s tough and stressful on them. It’s a lot to deal with for cubs so I’m just delighted they are getting the reward of sharing the stage next Sunday.”
An excellent opening half lay the foundation for Saturday’s 0-16 to 0-11 victory over Cavan but Boyle admitted the Oak Leafers were stretched at times in the second half, notably after a 49th minute black card for keeper, Ben O’Connor.
“Second half, it didn’t go as we wanted it to go at times but we expected to suffer at stages in that second half,” admitted the Ballinascreen native, “We expected that Cavan would come after us and the breeze actually got up even more after half-time which really put us to the pin of our collars but I was really pleased with the response of the boys in terms of the character they showed.
“We missed quite a number of chances at different stages of the game that we need to improve on but the character was there for everybody to see and that was pleasing. When you have character like that, then you can go places.”
Derry went into the Athletic Grounds clash without captain and attacking talisman, Ryan McNicholl, whose season was ended by a cruciate ligament injury in the victory over Donegal with Boyle revealing the squad was anxious secure a positive result for the Glenullin player
“I thought for the first 10 minutes we actually struggled to get up to the pitch of the game. I thought Cavan had started well and then once we got to grips with them, we realised their strengths and got to the pitch of the game.
“I thought we imposed ourselves well on their kick-outs which we did a lot of work on, and got our running game going. Listen, it was the first game back playing without Ryan and everything he is to the team. It was always going to be a period of boys finding their feet and figuring out and feeling their way into the game and thankfully that happened.
“We asked everybody for an extra 5 per cent. You’re not going to make up for missing a man like Ryan but the boys did do that in terms of work rate and thankfully scoring. Again, myself and the management team will look at it. Yes, we are over the line but we know that’s sort of performance won’t take us over the line next week. We know we will have to improve and we will improve, I’ve no doubt about that.”