Derry take on Dublin this Sunday in an Allianz league final that looks to be the toughest test yet of an impressive campaign.
From their battling performance from seven points down to secure a draw against neighbouring Tyrone in the opening round, the Oak Leafers’ grit and determination has carried them all the way to the final.
Manager Brian McIver will be able to call on Fergal Doherty despite the midfielder’s dismissal in the crunching semi-final clash with Mayo. McIver looks likely to be without influential defender Sean Leo McGoldrick, although the manager will be able to play the Eoghan Rua man against Donegal in the Championship opener.
Some would argue that the foundation for Derry’s successful run to the final has been laid by McIver’s faith in the likes of Foreglen man Oisin Duffy.
From that first comeback against Tyrone, the story of Derry’s league campaign has been one of determination to succeed - perhaps inspired by the hunger of players such as Thomas Mallon, Oisin Duffy and Kevin Johnston who have now been given their chance to impress.
Speaking after the win - earned with 14 men - against Mayo, Brian McIver said that those players were in the team purely on merit: “They certainly played their part on Sunday as did every one of the other players who represented Derry,” he said.
“I had said in advance of the game that I wanted us to turn in a better performance than we did in last year’s Division Two final against Westmeath and we did precisely that.
“If boys are in a county panel, then they deserve to get into the team although of course a manager can only start 15 players.”
After the opening draw with Tyrone, in their next fixture Derry again fought back against Kerry - this time from three points behind - to secure their first win. They maintained their unbeaten start to life in Division One after last year’s promotion effort with an emphatic 3-16 to 0-12 win over Westmeath at Celtic Park.
Later in March, their first defeat came at the hands of Cork in a tense, thrilling encounter that saw them come within one final kick of maintaining their unbeaten
Onwards and upwards was the name of the game though, as Brian McIver’s determined side overcame Dublin in their next fixture, who they meet for the second time in this weekend’s final.
Derry clinched their place in the semi-finals with a 2-17 to 3-9 win over Kildare that enhanced their credentials as challengers for the league title.
Their crunching encounter with Mayo, last season’s defeated finalists in the All-Ireland Championship, in the semi-finals of the competition served up another display of the Derry men’s fighting spirit.
They overcame a Mayo team widely considered the second best in the country and in doing so showed that they will not fear any opposition.
It is, however, a tough task to defeat the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park, and while Derry may have defeated the Dubs in Celtic Park earlier in the league campaign, they are likely to face a different side on Sunday.
Sunday’s match will also be shown live on RTE while updates available online.