The claustrophobic rearguards on display last Saturday was no place for a forward, and as Colm McFadden tried to catch his breath on the field afterwards, he tried to sum up his contribution.
“When you facing a team of Tyrone's potential and you standing in there at full-forward, every wee spot is covered so it's difficult alright,” said the Donegal man.
“I think I got one touch early on, but it's kind of a pattern now, happens in all these games, [it’s] getting harder and harder to get on the ball. Tyrone's a good team, they are well set up and well managed by Mickey Harte, he's an astute man on the line, so he was trying to counteract our forward line and obviously we were trying to counteract theirs.”
The St Michael’s man was being modest though. As the game developed in the second half, with Rory Kavanagh’s brace of points forcing the game level, the pitch opened up ever so slightly. McFadden managed to win and stick over his own free to level things again, and with seven minutes of normal time left, his left boot put four points between the sides.
He was keen to point to their motivation. “Tyrone have been the benchmark in Ulster this last 10 or 12 years along with Armagh, it's always going to be a tough outing,” he said.
“It gives you more confidence too, that's two years in a row that we have put Tyrone away, last year we were a bit lucky and this time we probably played a wee bit better, deserved the victory more.”
Donegal now face Down in the Ulster final, and already are odds-on to retain the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time in their history.
“It's a big challenge every day you go out. You put your Ulster title on the line, it's getting over Cavan and Derry and Tyrone. Our focus when we get up tomorrow morning is Down for the next three weeks,” said McFadden.
To many Tyrone fans’ surprise, it was 20-year-old Conor Clarke that started in place of Justin McMahon in full-back, with most predicting it would be the elder McMahon brother, Joe, that would pick up Donegal’s captain Michael Murphy.
In the end, Clarke performed with remarkable maturity and poise, holding Murphy scoreless from play, and even ambling upfield to land a great point.
“I suppose we talked about it over the last week or two and ‘this could happen’ or ‘that could happen’, I knew myself that I could go in and do a job,” said the Omagh St Enda’s defender. “I went in and did that job and hopefully Mickey Harte could see that.”
To make your debut is a special day, but to do it in direct opposition to Michael Murphy was an especially arduous task for Clarke, who summed it up: “It's a different game, I suppose you're just thrown in.
“I knew I was going in and had to pick up Mickey. He's a class act, he's been there and done that, I knew I was going to be up against it. I had analysed it myself and I knew I could do a half-decent job on him. Hopefully I have done that. There was a bit of talk about it during the week, Justy wasn't firing and I suppose I knew in my head that I could get the shout. Then Mickey finalised it and I was in.
“There wasn't a pile of time for nerves, it's a big occasion, your dream come true so to speak, sadly we just couldn't complete it.”
For now, Tyrone head for the back-door, and a date away to Roscommon.
“There's a massive amount of positives, we'll go back, take the positives, we'll move on and we'll re-analyse the negatives and work on them and come back a stronger team,” said Clarke.n There wasn’t a pile of time for nerves, it’s a big occasion, your dream come true so to speak, sadly we just couldn’t complete it