Derry's last Ulster Minor Championship title came three years ago in 2017.
Ulster Minor Championship Quarter Final
Sunday December 20, 1pm at Owenbeg
Derry v Armagh.
Referee: Enda McFeely, Donegal.
Preview: Bernie Mullan
IN these strange times, the quarter finals of the Ulster minor football championship are being played the day after the All Ireland senior football final and five days before Christmas.
However, the various minor managers have expressed their delight that the competition is going ahead after a series of postponements.
Whether spectators will be allowed has not yet been decided. Covid-19 regulations will probably permit, but all along the GAA has put health and safety first.
Over the past six years Derry minor teams have made quite an impact, winning two Ulster titles and reaching another two finals.
Their last final was in 2018 at Armagh where they lost narrowly to Monaghan with a dubious penalty helping the winners in the end.
With the minor grade now at under 17, players do not have the same experience and physique being that year younger.
While many counties are not happy with the change in the under age groupings they just have to get on with it.
The change from 18 to 17 seems to have been pushed through to suit exam schedules in the south of the country.
The pedigree of quite a few of the Derry squad is high quality.
Captain Matthew Downey is the son of Henry who captained Derry to the 1993 All Ireland title. His cousin Callum is the son of Seamus Downey who scored Derry’s goal in that final which they won by 1-14 to 2-8 against Cork.
Patrick McGurk’s dad Johnny was man of the match in that famous final.
Luke and Charlie Diamond are sons of Karl Diamond who came on as a sub in the 1993 final.
Their granddad Tommy captained Derry to the 1965 All Ireland minor title and the All Ireland under 21 title three years later.
Adam McGonigle from the Glen club is the son of Barry McGonigle, then Dungiven, who was right half back on Derry’s 1989 All Ireland winning minor team.
Niall McGonigle is the son of the one and only Geoffrey, a star for club and county in both football and hurling.
Magherafelt’s Eoin McEvoy is the brother of current Derry senior player Michael. Newbridge’s Mark Doherty is the brother of another Derry senior player, Conor Doherty.
The goalkeeping position is between Kian McGonigle of Dungiven and Drum’s Caolan Hazlett.
Limavady Wolfhounds’ powerful Sean Deehan is likely to man the full back spot but is equally effective at midfield.
Glen’s Jody McDermott is a real prospect and a star at St. Patrick’s College Maghera. Shea Harkin from Dungiven is another quality player in a very strong squad.
Both teams did play a few games in the Ulster League back in February and early March, mainly with experimental teams due to the absence of college players, but, that apart, little is known about form lines.
If one is to go by tradition then Derry will be fancied.
In recent years Derry have beaten Armagh consistently at under age level including in last year’s minor championship at The Athletic Grounds.
In terrible conditions and in a terrible game of defensive football Derry won a low scoring and drab encounter.
Prior to that game the Armagh manger and former senior player Ciaran McKeever outlined just how far ahead of his county that Derry were in terms of under age development.
He was speaking the truth but, a year on, he simply stated that he was glad that his players were getting a meaningful game.
For new Derry manager and former Ballinascreen player Marty Boyle it is first championship game.
He is assisted by Dermot Scullion, James McNicholl and Gavin McShane.
The winner will play the winners of Donegal and Tyrone in early January in the semi final.
A lot could depend on who has the better preparations.