Often when two sides face each other at the beginning of a knockout competition, they don't expect to meet again down the line in the final. But that's exactly what will happen when the Derry minor footballers take on Monaghan for the Electric Ireland Ulster MFC title later this month.
The two counties faced each other in the preliminary round of the competition way back in April, when Derry came out on top by a solitary point. The beauty of the Ulster Championship is that it is a double elimination format, meaning every team that loses before the semi-finals enters the qualifiers, thus ensuring every team has at least two matches.
Following the Oak Leaf county's subsequent round one loss to Cavan, both teams would have to make this circuitous route to the final. Monaghan had to tackle five games in five weeks, defeating Antrim, Donegal, Down and Cavan on their way to the showpiece match, while the Derry minor side beat Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone to join them.
Derry manager said afterwards that the future for Gaelic football in the county is bright, and how can you argue with him when they will contest their fourth consecutive provincial final. No one's talking about it, but it's a bit of a golden period for Derry GAA right now.
U20 @UlsterGAA football champions
4 ulster minor football finals in a row
All Ireland club titles today @FeilePeile2018
U17 Hurling title yesterday @GAACelticChall
U15 Ulster football final next weekend
Things aren’t going too bad atm! #DoireAbu 🇮🇩
— Chris Collins (@ograchris) July 1, 2018
Here are the nominees for Player of the Week:
Enda Downey - Derry
Goalkeeper Michael McGleenan made some terrific saves to keep Tyrone at bay, but the winning of the game came in the form of Enda Downey on a sunny day at the Athletic Grounds.
Downey was raring to go from the off, scoring a brilliant goal after just two minutes. Tyrone weren't that easy to shake off, but it set the tone for a huge win.
Four Ulster minor finals in a row for Derry, some going 👏🏻 🇦🇹 https://t.co/FlrGbPT6Cm
— Shea Downey (@Shea_Downey_11) July 1, 2018
The Lavey forward was the focal point of an efficient attacking line that shot just one wide in the first-half, his tally of 1-3 better only by Conleth McGucken's 1-4.
Both men shared the free-taking duties on a day that needed accurate kicking with both sides defending deep when the other was on the hunt for scores. Monaghan will know full well how dangerous Downey can be when the final comes around.
Aaron Mulligan - Monaghan
Monaghan had a much easier time of it in the other Ulster MFC semi-final, dispatching a desperately defensive Cavan without much hassle.
Ulster MFC Semi Final #Ulster2018
— Official Cavan GAA (@CavanCoBoardGaa) July 1, 2018
Aaron Mulligan was at the centre of the Farney boys' brilliant attacking performance, scoring 1-4 in the contest while chipping in with a free.
Cavan's tactics kept Monaghan at bay for the first 14 minutes, before their net was finally breached in the 16th minute. Mulligan would find the decisive score however, teaming up nicely with Sean Jones before sealing the win with a goal.
A number of good solo scores from the half-forward pierced the belief of a Cavan side who couldn't cope with the attacking threat posed by Mulligan et al. How will they fare against a strong Derry minor team?
Paul Keaney - Leitrim
Leitrim were in serious danger of becoming the whipping boys of the Connacht Championship until Paul Keaney came to the rescue in the dying embers of last Friday's battle with Sligo.
— Leitrim GAA Coaching & Games (@LeitrimG) June 29, 2018
The Wild Rose County were trailing for much of the game, but some good scores from Keaney after the restart kept them in the game.
Sligo were three points ahead as the 60-minute mark approached, but the nine minutes of injury time ended up being their undoing. Leitrim would end up scoring an astonishing 2-4 in that period, including a Keaney goal.
Keaney's tally of 1-3 was crucial to a sensational win, one that will give them a serious boost ahead of their clash with provincial supremo's Galway. A result in that tie would make this a fantastic season for the county.
Have your say and cast your vote for the player of the week nominees on Electric Ireland's Facebook page by clicking here. All nominated players will be in with a chance of making overall team/player of the year at the 2018 Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards.