Seniors start final as Derry minors crowned champions

Derry 1-12 Meath 0-8

Derry 1-12 Meath 0-8

Chris Brown's dominant Derry side tasted sweet All-Ireland glory at Croke Park, where Meath were put to the sword in merciless fashion.

The Oak Leaf county's fourth minor title was won with surprising ease, but with a style and a swagger that suggested that the changing of the guard up in the Sperrrins may not be the slow, painful experience that the experts have been predicting.

Here was a superbly drilled, powerfully motivated and supremely motivated body of young sportsmen who laid on an irresistible display of attacking football to which the Royals could find no match.

A highly rated Meath attack was squeezed out of the game by a superbly drilled Derry defence in which skipper Gerard O'Kane and 16-yer-old Mark Lynch were simply unbeatable.

And with 15 of the victorious squad eligible for another year at minor level, the newly crowned All-Ireland champions are already being touted as favourites for the 2003 title.

The fact that Brian Farrell scored all but one of his side's total, five of those from frees, underlined Derry's dominance.

But they had to recover from a shaky start before taking a firm grip on the game.

Derry's early pressure saw them kick three bad wides, and it wasn't until the 12th minute that Meath opened the scoring on a breakaway through David Murtagh.

Cahal O'Kane equalised almost immediately, and the Ulster champions were denied a goal by a superb Mark Brennan save.

The Royal keeper somehow managed to react and push a point blank effort from Paul Young onto a post, after the full forward had played a one-two with James Bateson.

Derry, with Ruairi Convery and Patsy Bradley on top at midfield, continued to press forward, and points from Bateson and Cahal O'Kane eased them into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead midway through the half.

The Leinster lads were living off scraps, and found Derry full back Gerard O'Kane in defiant form, but Brian Farrell's accuracy from free kicks kept them in touch.

O'Kane made a spectacular surge forward from deep in defence to send Barry McGoldrick through for a score, Ciaran Mullan also hit the target, but Farrell levelled the scores with a fine point from play.

They were locked at 0-5 each as the seconds ticked away towards the break, but Derry finished the half in sensational fashion.

Mullan slipped the ball to Conleth Moran, whose shot was blocked by Sean Stephens, but Convery seized possession and blasted to the roof of the net from 10yards to send his side in with a 1-5 to 0-5 advantage.

Meath did enjoy a spell of dominance early in the second half when Joe Melia began to come into the picture at midfield, but with wng backs Ciaran McCallion and Paul O'Hea always disruptive and creative, O'Kane a giant at full back and Lynch thumping massive delivieries into enemy territory, the pressure was soon back on the Leinster side.

Bateson and Barry McGoldrick stroked over frees, Cahal O'Kane slotted in his third score, and the combined presence of defensive heroes O'Kane and Lynch heled Ciaran Mullan dance through for a wonderful point.

Sean Stephens cleared off the line from Cahal O'Kane to keep meaht hopes alive, but it was Derry who had all the answers, and they finished the game on the ascendancy, with scores from McGoldrick, Conleth Moran and Bateson.

This was a superbly driven performance, full of character and self-confidence, particularly in the second half, when Oak Leaf dominance was complete, and the luxury of 11 wides after the break was one which they could comfortably afford as they prepared to carry the Tom Markham Cup back to Oak Leaf territory, to add to the successes of 1965, '83 and '89.

Derry: E McNicholl, M McGoldrick, G O'Kane, J Keenan, C McCallion, M Lynch, P O'Hea, P Bradley, R Convery, B McGoldrick (0-3), C O'Kane (0-3), C Moran (0-1), J Bateson (0-3), P Young, C Mullan (0-2).

Meath: M Brennan, B O'Reilly, T O'Connor, D O'Halloran, S Stephens, C King, E Dunne, J Melia, F Murphy, D Murtagh (0-1), P Murray, G McCullagh, B Regan, J Sheridan, B Farrell (0-7). Sub: R Brennan for O'Halloran, M Whearty for Regan, T Farrelly for Murray, A Reynolds for McCullagh, A Johnson for Dunne

Referee: M Ryan (Limerick)

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