Derry U20s wait on Matthew Downey and Lachlan Murray ahead of Championship opener

Derry's Lachlan Murray  will be assessed ahead of Wednesday's U20 Ulster Championship opener. Picture Margaret McLaughlinDerry's Lachlan Murray  will be assessed ahead of Wednesday's U20 Ulster Championship opener. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Derry's Lachlan Murray will be assessed ahead of Wednesday's U20 Ulster Championship opener. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Ulster U20 Football ChampionshipFermanagh v Derry (Wed, Rosslea,7.30pm)

Derry Under 20 manager Martin Boyle says he plans to assess Lachlan Murray and Matthew Downey before deciding if they will face Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship opener in Rosslea on Wednesday (7.30pm).

Both Murray and Downey played for Rory Gallagher's senior side in Sunday's drawn National League Division Two game against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and any decision is likely to be centred around whether the talented duo start or are introduced during the game.

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With Eoin McEvoy ruled out through injury, Oak Leaf boss Boyle admits preparations have been far from ideal at an age grade which always sees a considerable overlap with the senior game at a stage of the season when Gallagher's men are facing into a League final and their own Ulster date with the Erne County on April 15th.

"We had three league games and it was a tough spell because of a few different things, mostly injuries," explained Boyle, "We played two of those league games with 18 players. For our last game against Sligo we had the luxury of having 21 players available. It's frustrating and tough at times but we knew we knew what it would be like when we signed up to it. You have to try and make the best of it."

Both Ruairi Forbes and Donnacha Gilmore are not long returned from surgeries while Lee Brady was also out for a spell, as were both goal keepers and Boyle admits his main concern is over the amount of time time his players have had together

"The big worry we have about Wednesday is, yes, the team hasn't played enough football together but I suppose it's not really a worry because that's where nearly every team is at when it comes to championship, you don't really know where you are at prior to any championship," added the All Ireland winning minor manager.

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"One of the biggest carrots for working at this age group was the panel is largely made up of all the boys we have worked with and can vouch for, both in terms of their ability as footballers and they type of men they are. That's important.

"We know the boys will give it absolutely everything because they are made of the right stuff. That may be a cliche but it's so important that you go into a match able to vouch for the character of the players you have; we see that as really important."

With a squad backboned by that 2020 All Ireland minor winning squad, Derry will be favourites but Boyle had a word of caution prior to a Championship he expects to be ultra competitive.

"What I would say about this groups is that of the three years we were at minor level, this year was by far the most competitive year. The spread of talent across Ulster was, and this might just sound like talk, but all nine teams were very good.

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"You only have to look back to the results from that year; we beat Armagh by two points, luckily; we beat Tyrone by one point and we pulled away from Monaghan in injury time to win by the grand total of three points.

"And in every other game that year there was only ever one or two points in it so the quality is high and we already know every game is going to be ultra competitive.

"We have obviously been focused on ourselves ahead of the game but we do know Fermanagh from that minor year when they played a heavily touted Down team and took them out comfortably. Fermanagh have three boys on the senior panel, Ronan McCaffrey is a regular starter and their senior are performing really well so we know Fermanagh are a good side and will be well prepared.

"It hasn't been an ideal build up so you know what, we have every excuse in the book but our boys are not the sort to go down that road."