O’Rourke proud of his Armagh players

Aidan O’Rourke said he couldn’t be prouder of his Armagh Minor side after they lost the All-Ireland final to Derry. Armagh reached the decider for the first time in 15 years, but just came up short.

It was a year of firsts for the Orchard County. They collected the first piece of silverware at this age grade since 2009 with an Ulster League Shield title. They also went on to end Armagh’s 15 year wait for Ulster and All-Ireland final appearances.

Unfortunately for the young Armagh players, they came up against a Derry side that are just that wee bit ahead. The Oak Leaf County have won back-to-back Ulster and All-Ireland titles under Damian McErlain.

“As I said to the lads, the overwhelming emotion from all of the backroom team is pride,” said O’Rourke. “There is no doubt that they are phenomenal footballers.

“But their ability to stick in there when things aren’t going their way, to keep battling, those qualities are hard to find in teams. I’m immensely proud, it was a thoroughly enjoyable journey with the boys all year.

“They took us on a rollercoaster, and I would be happy to stack them up against any team I have coached, in terms of being stand-up lads. They do things the right way, and I am confident that they will push on.”

Small margins

Armagh pulled two clear after 40 minutes, but Derry stepped on and nailed 1-3 on the bounce to pull away. Armagh never gave up, but they couldn’t find the goal that would bring them back into contention.

“They are devastated,” added the 2002 All-Ireland winner. “There were small margins in the game. If you’d have said we’d score 10 times and they would score nine, I would have been fairly sure we’d have won the game. 

Aidan O’Rourke said he couldn’t be prouder of his Armagh Minor side after they lost the All-Ireland final to Derry.
Photo Credit: Finbar Burns

“I was sure we’d have scored the goals too; you’d do well to get a goal against us, and they got two. Derry are a superb football team, they are the best team in the country. That’s been demonstrated, not just today, but over the course of the season.

“They’ve been unbeaten, so it was a big task to come here and win the game. We gave ourselves a great chance, with 10 minutes gone in the second half, but it came down to small things, we had turnovers and unforced errors. Tiny things. 

“The effort of the boys and the character of the boys – they’ve been knocked down so many times, I don’t know where they get the resilience from. They’ve been phenomenal all year and particularly today. 

“You have to take your hat off to the opposition too, they were a very good minor team – as good a minor team as I’ve seen.”