HomeFootballMcErlain praises ‘serious group of players’ as Derry overcome Armagh challenge

McErlain praises ‘serious group of players’ as Derry overcome Armagh challenge

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Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship Final: Derry 2-7 v Armagh 0-10

The powers that be in Derry must nurture an exceptional wave of young talent and give the county the best possible chance to prosper at senior level, according to Minor manager Damian McErlain.

After leading the Oak Leafers to a second successive All-Ireland MFC title and a third in five years, McErlain hailed the quality of the young footballers that he has had the blessing two work with.

“They’re a serious group of players, serious talent among them,” he said following the 2-7 to 0-10 victory over Armagh at O’Neills Healy Park.

“The workrate, the attitude etc, that’s bred into them in their houses first, clubs, schools and then when they get to us, then you’re moulding it again to another level.

“This is an elite level, and the boys have adjusted to it really well.”

But he warned: “Good talent at that age can just go awry, you have got to nurture it.

Derry manager Damian McErlain with the cup after beating Armagh in the All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final played at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday 7th July 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Derry manager Damian McErlain with the cup after beating Armagh in the All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final played at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday 7th July 2024.

Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

“We have seen through the years clubs with a good under-age system, and the talent just gets lost somewhere.

“We have to take them on from 17 to 25 to get them there. It’s a big gap, but look, you’re in the right place when you’re producing players at that level, and that’s all Derry can do at this stage.”

Ten survivors from last year’s All-Ireland MFC winning squad brought serious levels of depth and quality to a successful retention of the Tom Markham Cup, according to McErlain.

“Every one of them brought quality to it, brought it not just on the field of play, but quality in the background in terms of culture,” said McErlain.

It was three of those stars of the 2023 triumph that stepped up in the clutch moments as the holders came from behind to push for home in the final quarter.

Derry captain James Sargent with the trophy after the Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland Football Minor Championship final match between Armagh and Derry at O'Neills Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone
Derry captain James Sargent with the trophy after the Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland Football Minor Championship final match between Armagh and Derry at O’Neills Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Skipper James Sargent, Luke Grant and Eamon Young stood tall in a towering finish for the Oak Leafers, capped by a clinching goal from Cody Rocks.

“We have come to see that. They go to the one school, they have grown up together those three lads in that school environment,” said the team manager.

“And they look to each other in those moments, they dig deep and their quality shines through.

“And when it came to the big moments, those three men just stood up.”

Meanwhile, Armagh manager Aidan O’Rourke reflected on missed goal chances and fine margins.

“If you’d have said we’d score 10 times and they would score nine, I would have been fairly sure we’d have won the game,” he said.

Derry Cody Rocks 14 celebrates a goal against Armagh in the All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final played at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday 7th July 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Derry Cody Rocks 14 celebrates a goal against Armagh in the All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final played at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday 7th July 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

“I was sure we’d have scored the goals too – you’d do well to get a goal against us and they got too.

“Derry are a superb football team – they are the best team in the country. That’s been demonstrated, not just today, but over the course of the season. They’ve been unbeaten so it was a big task to come here and win the game.

“We gave ourselves a great chance – with 10 minutes gone in the second half, we’d turnovers and unforced errors. Tiny things.”

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