Derry minors have plenty to work on despite Armagh win says Paddy Campbell

Derry Minor captain Aidan McCloskey and Armagh captain Sean McVerry line out alongside match referee Kieran Eannetta in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday.
Derry Minor captain Aidan McCloskey and Armagh captain Sean McVerry line out alongside match referee Kieran Eannetta in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday.

Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship

Derry minor manager Paddy Campbell insists there will be no celebrations after a performance that left plenty of room for improvement despite registering an opening Ulster Championship victory over Armagh in the Athletic Grounds.

PJ McAleese's sublime 52nd minute goal, lobbing a cheeky chipped finish over stranded Armagh keeper, Shea Magill, capped a comfortable four point win but an opening half in which Derry score just one free against an ultra defensive home team gave cause for concern.

"We had 10 shots and scored one point whereas Armagh got three points from maybe four or five shots," explained the Oak Leaf manager, "We dominated possession first half, even against that very strong wind. We were disappointed to only score the one point. PJ (McAleese) had a very good goal chance which went wide early on and maybe that would have settled us.

"We knew we were going to come up against a blanket defence and it transpired that it was the case. It was a very tough, breezy day as well but, yes, one point from 10 chances in the first half wasn't really good enough.

"There were better runs (to find). We have worked very, very hard in training at breaking down the blanket defence because most teams play it - Armagh, Tyrone, Monaghan - anybody you meet. We have worked very hard behind the scenes, we are doing a lot of good work on it. We didn't transfer that effort from training into the game today but that gives us something to work on and we look forward to improving on that aspect of our game. At the same time, the boys did well."

Campbell admitted he was surprised at how defensive Armagh had lined-out in the opening half when the home side had the benefit of a strong breeze at their backs.

"Yes I was, very surprised. They had the breeze and probably could have gone at us. It was a tough breeze to work the ball out from defence on. We were struggling to even work the ball up the field but they gave us loads of possession around the middle of the field, switching the play over and back.

"To be fair, we were running the clock down a bit and trying to kill the game in the hope that we would get enough scores in the second half. That was the game-plan and it worked okay but when games go that close right until the end, anything can happen."

Campbell said he remained confident of victory despite a quiet third quarter to the game with two excellent Matthew Downey points and McAleese's memorable goal eventually giving Derry the cushion to see the game out, even after a controversial black card for Marc Dixon.

"We were saying along the line, 'There are only 10 minutes gone, we are fine' and we knew we would have other scoring chances. Marc Dixon was a huge loss because he has great finishing ability. I'm not sure that was a black card offence but he was sent off anyway and it was a huge loss.

"But no, we weren't worried. We knew we would get chances and even if it came down to the last minute or two, with that breeze, we had a higher percentage chance of getting a score or two than Armagh but you live and die by it.

"We tried to attack as much as we could second half. We dominated possession in the game, maybe about 70%-30% I thought but the scoring was very low, it was difficult.

"Enda (Downey) hit a very good free from way over on the wing, it was a class free and brought us into the game. PJ got a very classy goal. Matthew got a couple and scores are hard to come by. Matthew was quiet but he got a lovely score and came into the game. The boys did well and I'm very proud of them but, yes, there is a lot to improve on

"Looking at the other games, Antrim only lost by a point to Monaghan so it's always tight. On a windy day, a wet day at times, it is a great leveller.

"PJ's was a very good goal and we did something similar in the fist half when PJ missed that early chance and those chances are few and far between. We created two or them and they didn't get many, bar that late scramble when we could have been caught on the line.

"It is good to come out of it but we are not celebrating anything. We have another very tough game against one of the other winners to come so it won't be easy."