"You want to play Kerry in the final" - Derry Minors have no fear going into Sunday's All-Ireland final 2 months ago

"You want to play Kerry in the final" - Derry Minors have no fear going into Sunday's All-Ireland final

"It will be something that I will never forget."

The 2020 Derry Minors team have been one of the hardest-hit groups in GAA by COVID-19.

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Not least because it's currently 2021 and they're still finishing last year's campaign, but it has made this group even stronger as they head into an All-Ireland final against Kerry this Sunday.

Derry's monster midfielder, Dan Higgins, believes that this particular Oak Leaf side are special.

"When I first joined the panel, you would have only really talked to your club mates, but because we have been with each other for so long, our manager Marty Boyle even said that it almost feels like a club team.

"I think it's what helps us do so well, we all play for each other, there's no rivalries, or big egos, everyone just wants to do what's best for the team.

"At the very start, Marty had a meeting with the players and he asked us what our ambitions were and a lot of boys thought that there was an All-Ireland in us, just knowing the quality that's in the squad."

There seems to be a resurgence in Derry county football at the moment, as Rory Gallagher's current crop secured promotion to Division 2 and were unlucky to lose out to Donegal in the championship.

Higgin's always had huge pride in his county, and it's not just because of where he is from, Derry royalty flows through his blood.

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"Derry were obviously a very good football team back in the 90s', and I definitely want that back.

"My granda would have been Colm Mulholland, and my great uncle was Sean O'Connell, who both played for Derry in the 1958 All-Ireland final.

"I have always wanted to play for Derry seniors, it would have been something that I thought about a lot. Even against Donegal there, we should have won, I remember thinking like, how have we lost that game?

"It is good to see them do well though, you could just tell, even seeing them training down at Owenbeg, you can see that they're going to get better and better."

As if playing in the All-Ireland final isn't daunting enough, when you look across the pitch to see that Kerry are your opponents, the dominant side in not just minor, but GAA footballing history, it's added pressure.

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This doesn't phase the Magherafelt midfielder in the slightest however, and is a challenge that he's looking forward to facing.

"I watched the Kerry and Roscommon game, they definitely look like a good side and play football just like you would expect a Kerry team would.

"But you want to play Kerry in the final, you wouldn't want to win an All-Ireland without getting them.

"There's been a good buzz with the squad, ever since we beat Tyrone, the momentum seems to be growing and growing."

That old rivalry of Tyrone and Derry raised its head a few weeks back, in the Ulster semi-final, and it was a fantastic game, especially because they both had to wait so long to actually play it.

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The Oak Leafers pipped it in the end, securing their place in the Ulster final where they went on to beat Monaghan.

"I know we won Ulster but because we were waiting for that Tyrone game for so long, like it was six months or so before it got played and just to get over that hurdle was amazing.

"We didn't know where we were at, because we hadn't played games in ages, so that give us the confidence to beat Monaghan.

"I hadn't won an Ulster medal yet so it felt so good to get one, and to even play in an All-Ireland final - it will be something that I will never forget."

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