Derry defeat Armagh to lift Ulster U20 crown

Ulster Under 20 Football Championship Final

Derry 2-15, Armagh 0-14

Derry U20 players celebrate following their victory over Armagh in Clones.

Derry U20 players celebrate following their victory over Armagh in Clones.

The final Ulster Minor football champions and now the first Ulster Under 20 champions - who says Derry football is in the doldrums!

Mickey Donnelly's Oak Leafers became the first county to lift the Danny Murphy Cup after Brian Cassidy's superb second half cameo brought the Slaughtneil player 2-02 and secured a seven point victory over a strong Armagh team at a sun drenched Clones.

Cassidy only entered the fray eight minutes into the second half with the game in the balance at 0-10 to 0-09 but inside 15 minutes he had ensured a third Ulster trophy for Derry in four years in what was a fourth successive final for the county at either minor or the new Under 20 grading.

Cassidy's brace broke the Armagh resolve. With on pitch temperatures soaring, it was no day to be chasing a deficit but the Orchard County had their chances in both halves and it was only down to some superb Oak Leaf defending that Jason Duffy or Ross McQuillan failed to hit the net.

but this was Derry's day as a group of young players who have become serial finalists proved once again that the future is bright for Derry football as they head into an All Ireland Series meeting with Mayo.

Cassidy's goals were the difference but the first one owed everything to a superb piece of vision from Lorcan McWilliams. Callum brown did superbly to gather ball 20m from the Armagh posts and feed it back to the Swatragh player. a point looked on but McWilliams had spotted what Armagh didn't - Cassidy's run - and slid a lovely low ball a low pass across the face of goal for Cassidy to collect to fire a fierce shot into the corner for a 1-12 to 0-10 lead.

That was good but the second goal was the icing on the Derry cake as Brown again won a ball he had no right to get near, shrugged off a challenge and sent Cassidy scampering clear to sidestep Armagh keeper Callan Duffin and win the game for Derry.

All along people like Damian McErlain, Mickey Donnelly, Brian McIver have been telling how the structures are in place in the Oak Leaf county and on this evidence it is time the county's supporters took heed.

For Armagh there was only heart-break and the feeling of what might have been. They had chances but met a Derry side whose experience of playing Ulster finals proved crucial.

After a week of confusion over the Armagh starting 15, it didn't end with the throw-in as Peter McDonnell's team saw Jason Duffy, Ross McQuillan come in to start despite not being named in the official match programme but if the crowd were slightly bemused by the '27' and '28' in the starting line-out, that didn't reach the players as the Orchard County made a positive start, McQuillan grabbing the game's first point after only 47 seconds.

Armagh positioned Conor Turbitt and Marty Carr inside with Carr the target man but Eoghan Concannon did a superb job despite ceding several inches in height. Shea Downery was providing the Derry cover with James McAlinden sweeping for Armagh.

Armagh's encouraging start continued with a second point, this time from Rian O'Neill and despite Lorcan McWilliams getting Derry on the scoreboard from a free, it took a brilliant Concannon save on the goal-line to stop Duffy hitting the net on five minutes.

Gradually though the Oak Leafers settled and began to take control with Conor Doherty and Oisin McWilliams gaining the upper hand in the middle of the field. Another Lorcan McWilliams free levelled things on nine minutes.

A superb Rian O'Neill '45' had Armagh back in front again but Declan Cassidy, who was enjoying a superb first half, grabbed the first of three point in the opening half to level things again at 0-3 a-piece.

Derry were leaving Callum Brown and Lorcan McWilliams inside but as the half progressed brown, as he often does, started to drift out the field and that left room for Derry runners and they almost took advantage of that space on 14 minutes. McWilliams made a driving run through the centre of the Armagh defence and despite being hauled down, he managed tom get his pass away to Ben McCarron in support. The Steelstown man didn't hear the referee's whistle and finished superb across Callan Duffin only to be pulled back for a free which McWilliams converted.

Level once again, Derry hit the front for the first time on 15 minutes with another excellent Cassidy point and from there until half-time it was tit-for-tat and Jason Duffy grabbed a superb point only for Declan Cassidy to cancel it out. McCarron pushed the Derry lead out to 0-8 to 0-5 but Armagh had the last say of the half as McQuillan held off two Derry defenders to score a superb point and leave two in it at the break.

And the second half was every bit as tight until the Derry goals. Duffy, Conor O'Neill, McQuillan and Rian O'Neill all pointing for Armagh while Oisin McWilliams, Declan Cassidy, Lorcan mcWilliams (2) were the men on target for Derry.

that left two between the teams at 0-12 to 0-10. It was anyone's game, well, it was Brian Cassidy's!

Both his goals were excellent in their execution but it was his 51st minute point from wide out along the left hand touchline that summed up a superb Derry perfromance. he had not right to shoot, let alone split the posts. This was Derry's day and there look to be plenty more within this group of Oak Leaf players.

Derry Scorers: Brian Cassidy (2-2), Loran McWilliams (0-4, 4f); Declan Cassidy (0-5); Ben McCarron (0-2), O McWilliams (0-1)

Armagh Scorers: Ross McQuillan (0-6); Rian O'Neill (0-4, 2f, 1 forty-five); Conor O'Neill (0-2, 1f); Jason Duffy (0-2)

Derry: Oran Hartin, Sean McKeever, Dara Rafferty, Conleth McShane; Eoghan Concannon, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan; Callum Brown, Oisin McWilliams; Conor Doherty, Shea Downey, Ben McCarron; Mark McGrogan, Lorcan McWilliams, Declan Cassidy.

(Subs) Brian Cassidy for M McGrogan 38mins; Jude McAtamney for L McWilliams, 55mins; Hugh McGurk for D Cassidy, 60mins;

Yellow cards: P McGrogan, 28mins; C Doherty, 34mins;

Black Card: B McCarron 41mins (replaced by Marty Bradley)

Armagh: Callan Duffin; James McAlinden, Barry McCambridge, Declan Loye; Cathair McGeary, Conor O'Neill, Sean McCarthy; Jason Duffy, Callum O'Neill; Ronan Magennis, Ross McQuillan, Marty Carr; Conor Turbitt, Jamie Murphy, Rian O'Neill.

(Subs) Ryan Garvey for M Carr, HT; Kevin McAlinden for C Turbitt, 50mins; Darren Luck for J McAlinden, 53mins; Justin Kieran for J Murphy, 39mins; Niall Magennis for R Magennis, 43mins;

Yellow cards: M Carr, 28mins, R O'Neill 28mins; R McQuillan 60mins;

Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)