Derry Minors face Tyrone for place in Ulster Championship final

Derry minor football manager Damian McErlain. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2316GS – 51Derry minor football manager Damian McErlain. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2316GS – 51
Derry minor football manager Damian McErlain. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2316GS – 51
Ulster Minor Football Semi-finalDerry v Tyrone (Sat, Owenbeg, 12pm)​

Derry minors will be without Padraig O'Kane as they seek an eighth Ulster Final appearance in 10 years against Tyrone at Owenbeg on Saturday afternoon (throw-in 12pm).

The influential Dungiven player hurt his hamstring before Derry's victory over Armagh two weeks ago, a result that sent Damian McErlain's side on the direct route to the last four after topping Group B.

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Tyrone meanwhile finished level on six points apiece with Donegal at the top of Group A but lost out on the head-to-head with the Tir Chonaill county meaning they had to come through a quarter-final play off against Cavan to claim their place in this weekend's semi-final.

This will be the second meeting of the season between the two counties after Derry won a hard fought league opener 0-12 to 0-9 at Owenbeg back in March and McErlain is expecting Saturday to be every bit as tough.

"We have to cope with being favourites at this point but it really doesn't mean anything at minor level," explained the Derry boss, "The night we played Tyrone in the league there was a gale and it was a real game of two halves.

"It was a really tight encounter. Tyrone showed the quality they have, especially in attack, and if you allow boys like (Liam) McGeary, (Jamie) Concannon and (Shea) McDermott space they can punish you.

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"Their full forward line is very dangerous and, as a team, they seem to have progressed with every match so they'll be unrecognisable from the team that we played in the league.

"They've won their last three or four matches and they will have taken confidence from those games. Cavan are a good team as we found out ourselves so that victory last week will stand to them."

Derry's last outing two weeks ago was a highly impressive 2-18 to 0-07 victory over an Armagh team who will meet Donegal in the second semi-final in Ballyshannon. Indeed McErlain believes both Tyrone and the Orchard County will benefit from having coming through a knock-out tie prior to the semi-final.

"There's no doubt there is a major advantage in getting that knockout game coming into a championship semi-final rather than being the team that's waiting in the last four," he explained, "We found that out last year when Donegal came to play us.

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"Donegal had been out two weeks prior and were massively battle hardened by the time we got them in Killyclogher, so we have to be prepared for that."

Derry and Tyrone can both boast superb recent records at minor level and you have to go back to 2014 to final a provincial decider that didn't involve one of the two counties. Indeed Tyrone are seeking a fourth final appearance in six years and a third Ulster title in four years and McErlain is well aware of the challenge his team must face.

"We played well against Armagh but it brought us nothing only into a semi-final," he added.

"The minor grade can be unpredictable; you have to prove it week in, week out and we have yet to prove we can do that."

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