Martin Boyle's relief as Derry's 18 year gap is bridged in Tullamore
If there was one word that Marty Boyle could use to describe the feeling of leading Derry to an All-Ireland minor title it was ‘relief’.
After an 18-month journey that at times felt like it would end without a championship ball being kicked, Boyle was the proudest man in Tullamore as his team ended a four-week whirlwind with the Tom Markham cup.
It bridged an 18-year gap for the Oakleaf county, with Boyle following in the steps of Chris Brown who managed that successful 2002 minor side.
After watching nail-biting victories over Tyrone, Monaghan and Meath of late, the Ballinascreen man admitted he was just glad to get over the line.
“It’s beginning to sink in a wee bit. Because it’s been week after week for the past four weeks, we haven’t had an opportunity to let it sink in that god, we’re in an Ulster final.
“God, we’re Ulster champions. We’re in an All-Ireland semi-final, an All-Ireland final, and now we’re All-Ireland champions.
“Maybe now it will sink in a bit more because it’s almost as if we have been in a wee bubble. My initial reaction is relief that we’re reached this stage and that we’ve achieved it given all the possibilities that could have happened.”
Derry hearts sank when Maurice O’Connell found the net late on to give Kerry a two-point lead, but Boyle insists that he never panicked.
He knew the character that his boys had in them - they had already done it plenty of times before - and a Matthew Downey penalty at the death confirmed his faith. Unshakeable.
“Every game has gone to the wire. The boys believe in themselves, and we talked about it during the week and even during the second water break today that if we got close to them we would win the game because we have the character,” explained the manager.
“Coming through the white heat of those championship matches was going to stand to us.
“The boys believed that, and they delivered, yet again. That’s the most heartening and pleasing thing. Their character was stripped bare for everyone to see and the love of playing for Derry and achieving for Derry was just magical.”
There is a distinct and clear feeling in Derry that something is changing. The future is as bright looking as it has been for many years.
There’s still more work to be done, but Boyle said that Sunday’s victory shows there is plenty to be proud of in Derry.
“The scenes coming up the road were just incredible. It takes you back to the 90’s and the warmth and the feel good factor about Derry football. It brings me back to when I was a cub growing up and that was what you were experiencing, just magical times,” he said. “I hope this leads to more positivity and achievements for us as a county, and I think it will.
“Our seniors have made good progress and there’s a lot of players coming through from under 20’s and now these lads as well.
“I suppose in many ways it’s a vindication and a wee shot in the arm for everyone to know that the structures around the clubs and the county and the coaching – it is good enough.”
“It is good enough to produce players that are at the top of the tree in Ireland.”