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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 22 October, 2018

6 players to watch as Derry and Kerry battle it out for All-Ireland minor football glory

The Kingdom are going for four-in-a-row.

FOUR-IN-A-row for Kerry or a first title since 2002 for Derry?

All will be revealed at Croke Park next Sunday when the counties contest the 2017 Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor football decider.

Kerry will start as red-hot favourites to collect the county’s 15th title in this grade – and victory would put them four clear of Dublin on the all-time roll of honour.

Derry are back in the final for the first time since 2007, when they lost out to Galway.

Here, we take a look at six players who will have a big say in the destination of the Tom Markham Cup.

1. David Clifford (Kerry)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Who else? The boy with the Midas touch has been sensational in the 2017 championship.

The Fossa star is simply a footballing freak of nature and since making his minor debut against Waterford in 2016, he’s terrorised opposition defences.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

AFL scouts are monitoring the progress of the 6ft 2″ attacker with keen interest – and it’s not difficult to understand why.

He’s now captain of the Kerry minors aiming for a fourth successive All-Ireland crown.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

2. Padraig McGrogan (Derry)

Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

Padraig McGrogan suffered Ulster final heartbreak against Donegal in 2016.

But the bitter memories of that setback fuelled the Newbridge player with a huge motivation to come back this year and go one better.

McGrogan is comfortable in defence or midfield but he’s forged an impressive central partnership with Oisin McWilliams throughout the 2017 championship campaign.

McGrogan was man of the match in Ulster final victory over Cavan, and he’s also been prominent in the victories over Sligo and Dublin in the All-Ireland series.

3. Diarmuid O’Connor (Kerry)

O’Connor, from the Na Gaeil club, lined out at wing-forward in last year’s All-Ireland minor final victory over Galway – and scored one of the Kingdom’s three goals.

He’s since made the switch to midfield and it’s been a seamless transition for the 18-year-old.

Source: Irish Flukey/YouTube

O’Connor also made his minor debut against Waterford in 2016 and has been a key member of the team ever since.

Alongside Barry Mahony at centre-field, O’Connor is a real leader for this Kerry outfit, and his steady influence around the middle third is vital to their final hopes.

O’Connor hadn’t scored in championship 2017 until landing a point in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cavan – but you wouldn’t bet against him notching again.

4. Lorcan McWilliams (Derry)

McWilliams was superb at full-forward against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, as his man of the match display registered six points, including five frees.

And yet McWilliams started the 2017 campaign on the bench, coming on against Tyrone in an absorbing Ulster quarter-final to score three points.

Source: Irish Flukey/YouTube

He scored two points against Antrim and six points in the Ulster final victory over Cavan, before missing the All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Sligo.

But McWilliams, a twin brother of ace midfielder Oisin, was back for the All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin.

And his five points (four frees) were crucial as the Oak Leafers claimed a three-point win. 

5. Devidas Uosis (Kerry)

Source: Kerry GAA

Uosis is of Lithuanian origin and an excellent goalkeeper for the Kerry minors.

At U16 level, he was a noted forward and Uosis has caught the eye in recent times playing soccer for Camp United and Dingle Bay Rovers.

Uosis once won Camp’s goal of the season competition and he was a member of the Kerry side that won the Galway Cup in 2015. 

But he’s now carving out a real niche for himself in Gaelic Football and stepped up to the mark to replace Billy Courtney between the sticks for the 2017 campaign.

Uosis made his debut against Clare in the opening round of the Munster championship – and has been an ever-present since then.

He stopped a Cork penalty in the Munster semi-final and made another fine save later in the game.

6. Oisin McWilliams (Derry)

Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

We’ve referenced his midfield sidekick Padraig McGrogan but Oisin McWilliams has also been superb for Derry in the county’s march to a first All-Ireland minor decider in ten years.

McWilliams was excellent when Derry upset Tyrone in Ulster, and he also notched two goals against Antrim.

He kicked a vital free in the Ulster final victory over Cavan and landed four points (three frees) as Derry edged past Sligo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

McWilliams was also on the scoresheet with a point as Derry came through the Dublin challenge at the semi-final stage.

And the pre-match underdogs will need him at full throttle around the middle of the field if Kerry are to be denied the four-in-a-row.

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