Minor final is culmination of Derry and Kerry rivalry
Four-in-a-row chasing Kerry beat Derry in 2015 and 2016 in the outgoing grade
Kerry’s David Clifford in action against Derry last year. Photograph: Tommy Greally/Inpho
Kerry v Derry – Croke Park, 1.15pm - Live TG4
Presuming a mere coronation for this David Clifford led Kerry side would be to overlook the achievements of Derry manager Damian McErlain these past three years.
Kerry have accounted for the Ulster champions en route to their 2015 and 2016 titles so while the four-in-a-row will probably occur a clear rivalry has developed at the outgoing under-18 grade.
McErlain, who takes hold of the senior panel this winter, has guided Derry to three Ulster finals, winning two.
They overcame a more fancied Tyrone before Antrim, Cavan, Sligo and Dublin (in Croke Park) were all beaten.
It was also St Patrick’s Maghera who put it up to St Brendan’s, Killarney - inspired by Clifford - in last year’s Hogan Cup final.
Granted, St Brendan’s retained the All-Ireland Colleges crown last March.
It is unquestionably a golden era for Kerry underage teams and many of them will be funnelled into Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s team, presuming Fitzmaurice stays in charge past 2018.
But Derry, inspired by McWiliams twins Oisin and Lorcan, have enough quality to deny utter confirmation of Kerry’s rule over the teenage ranks.
And it is the last time, presuming the GAA’s new plan works out, that Croke Park bears witness to this age group as a curtain raiser to the senior decider as next year minor switches to under-17.
“Derry have had stern challenges and they have put up big scores,” said Kerry manager Peter Kane. “What I have seen of them they are very good. They are very physically big. They have Padraig McGrogan who is very strong, Conor McCluskey at fullback, they have the McWilliams twins, Oisin and Lorcan, two very good players, and Patrick Quigg who was very good against us last year.”
Clifford arrives with 4-38 beside his name from four victories over Clare, Cork, Louth and Cavan, when he posted 1-10.
That should trump the confidence Derry gained in their victory over Dublin.
“We play to our strengths and it will be no different in the All-Ireland final,” said McErlain. “To beat the Dubs, you weren’t going to win by sitting back. You’ve got to go and play to your strengths to win the game particularly the best sides.”
Still, Clifford to be the last man standing and lift the Tom Markham Cup.
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).