Derry Minors crowned All Ireland champions
Derry 2-12 Kerry 1-14
In the most dramatic of circumstances, Derry minors claimed the All-Ireland title they had last won in 2002 with a late Matthew Downey penalty defeating Kerry by the bare minimum.
It was a mammoth battle in Tullamore but Derry’s never-say-die attitude in the second half saw them push right to the end and a cool finish from Oakleaf skipper Downey saw them achieve the glory - the perfect end to a long journey for Martin Boyle and his young charges.
Traditionally held in Croke Park, the game was instead played in Tullamore in front of a limited crowd of 500 witnessing Derry’s first appearance in the final since 2017.
Derry got off to a good start when they won the throw-in and settled on the ball before captain Matthew Downey took over and sent it between the sticks.
An Eoin McEvoy score on six minutes made it 0-2 to no score for the Ulster champions, but three points in two minutes from Cillian Burke, Cian McMahon and Aaron O’Shea suddenly had Kerry ahead.
Keith Evans made it 0-4 to 0-2 before Downey got the Oakleaf’s first score in eight minutes to settle his side.
There was a blow just before the water break, however, when Patrick O’Kane was black-carded for a block on Oisín Maunsell, though Derry could have had a goal at the other end when Niall O’Donnell’s shot was cleared off the line by Cian O’Donoghue.
Two William Shine points had the Kingdom up by three before Mark Doherty and Evans exchanged scores at the end of the half to make it 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
There was a back and forth at the start of the second half as Kerry got a free from McMahon and a Maunsell point while Charlie Diamond and Lachlan Murray added their names to the scoresheet – 0-9 to 0-6 after 37 minutes.
The first goal then came in a slick Derry move involving Downey and Doherty before Murray fisted to the net.
Wing backs Doherty and Brady got points, while Burke and Maunsell also raised white flags.
A Matthew Downey free and points from Callum Downey and Niall O’Donnell had Derry 1-11 to 0-11 ahead and seemingly on their way to victory.
But Kerry weren’t ready to settle yet. A ’45 from goalkeeper Sean Broderick was followed by Murray and McMahon exchanging scores before the Kerry forward found space to make it 1-12 to 0-14 with a minute of normal time remaining.
At that point, disaster seemed to strike for Derry. A Kian McGonigle short kick-out was fumbled by Jude Moore and Maurice O’Connell nipped in to finish to the empty net from 20 metres and give Kerry a 1-14 to 1-12 lead heading into three added minutes.
But that never say die attitude came to the fore for the men in red and white. They broke down the field and Callum and Matthew Downey were both involved in setting up Murray who side stepped towards goal and saw his shot blocked by the foot of Broderick.
With 61 minutes on the clock, Matthew Downey calmly placed the penalty and fired it powerfully down the middle to the net, leaving Kerry needing a point to level.
McGonigle saved from Fleming before, in the dying moments, McMahon sent a difficult free wide of the posts.
The Derry fans that were able to get tickets flooded the pitch in scenes of wild celebrations as Matthew Downey lifted the Tom Markham aloft. An incredible end to an incredible journey.
Derry: Kian McGonigle; Adam McGonigle, Patrick McGurk, Conor Shiels; Mark Doherty (0-2), Eoin McEvoy (0-1), Lee Brady (0-1); Dan Higgins, Patrick O’Kane; Donncha Gilmore, Matthew Downey (1-3, 1 pen, 2f), Jody McDermott; Charlie Diamond (0-1f), Lachlan Murray (1-2), Niall O’Donnell (0-1).
Subs: Callum Downey (0-1) for C Diamond (38), Jude Moore for A McGonigle (50), Ryan McEldowney for J McDermott (59), Peter McCullagh for L Murray (63).
Kerry: Seán Broderick (0-1 ’45); Cian O’Donoghue, Joey Nagle, Dara O’Callaghan; Paudie O’Leary, Armin Heinrich, Killian O’Sullivan; Cillian Burke (0-2), Oisín Maunsell (0-2); Keith Evans (0-2), William Shine (0-2), Thomas O’Donnell; Cian McMahon (0-4, 2f), Aaron O’Shea (0-1), Darragh O’Sullivan.
Subs: Jordan Kissane for D O’Sullivan (43), Maurice O’Connell (1-0) for W Shine (46), Darragh Fleming for K O’Sullivan (50).
Referee: James Henry (Mayo)