Tyrone battle back to claim Ulster title
Donegal 0-11 Tyrone 0-13
Over an hour after David Coldrick brought this Ulster final to a close, there were still thickets of jubilant Tyrone people on the Clones pitch, wringing every last drop out of their 14th Ulster triumph, one that Mickey Harte described as 'absolutely the best'.
The usual faces were easily identifiable. Under-21 manager Feargal Logan. Pascal Canavan. Raymond Munroe. Extended branches of the Harte family.
Tyrone are back. Four defeats to Donegal later, they became the side that refused to lose with a late push inspired by the contributions of their younger brigade.
And at the same time, their sprint for home began in the second of six injury-time minutes with a shot from the veteran captain Sean Cavanagh. He was hit late, was off balance, a fair way out and the ball hung in the air for an eternity. But when it just crept over the crossbar to tie the scores on 0-11 each, they picked up the scent of blood.
The game was then sent into orbit three minutes later when Peter Harte let fly for a stylish point. From the resultant kickout sub Kieran McGeary scrapped to win the break. It was worked up to Donegal's defensive line but there was McGeary again on the shoulder offering support, squeezing a shot just inside the upright.
At half-time, that all seemed so unlikely. Tyrone appeared as far away from this Donegal team as ever, 0-7 to 0-4 behind.
Peter Harte had began the game marking Ryan McHugh, but as the half wore on this appeared to change. Finding himself as a free man, McHugh chalked up three points from play and drew a foul for Donegal's opening score.
Tyrone hit nine first half wides and dropped two short. None of their leaders could impose themselves and it looked like Donegal boss Rory Gallagher had succeeded in hammering the hammers.
Add to that, the talismanic Matthew Donnelly picking up a black card for a third-man tackle and Cathal McShane suffering the same fate for reportedly abusing an umpire, they looked sunk.
However, after Paddy McBrearty opened the second half scoring for Donegal after just 13 seconds, Tyrone reeled off the next four scores to draw level. Rory Brennan, who replaced his Trillick clubmate Donnelly, came forward and kicked a point with assurance.
A Sean Cavanagh battering-ram ended up with spilled ball that Harte put over. Harte then set up Cavanagh for a fisted point and Red Hands goalkeeper Niall Morgan then came forward to stroke over a 50 metre free.
But in possession, Donegal looked so unruffled that the possibility of defeat never seemed likely. They held the ball for some ridiculous lengths of time, but Tyrone stubbornly retained their shape.
Odhran MacNiallais popped up with a long-range point. Jonathan Munroe began smashing into opponents and after he caught Frank McGlynn with one such clatter, the ball ending up with a Sean Cavanagh equaliser.
Munroe got called for a foul on Christy Toye when another interpretation might have been a charging violation, and Michael Murphy arrowed over from 50 metres to take the lead with three minutes of normal time remaining.
In the very next play, Tyrone equalised. Munroe ran straight into Murphy with a contact that could be heard and felt in the Gerry Arthurs Stand.
With the game at fever pitch, Brennan made a mad dash into the Donegal penalty area but was held up by a text-book gang tackle, David Coldrick waving away appeals for a penalty.
Then, out of thin air, but really owing to a fresher batch of subs and reservoirs of hurt stored up from their previous four meetings, Tyrone burst the banks and poured the souls into the frantic finish.
Cavanagh lifted the Anglo-Celt. Harte has won his fifth provincial title. It felt like old times.
TYRONE: N Morgan 0-2f, R McNamee, J McMahon, C McCarron 0-1; R McNabb, A McCrory, T McCann; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; C McShane 0-1, N Sludden 0-1, P Harte 0-2; C McAliskey, S Cavanagh 0-3, R O'Neill
Subs: J Munroe for O'Neill (53), D McCurry 0-1, for McAliskey (63), K McGeary 0-1, for McMahon (71)
Yellow cards: McAliskey (42)
Black cards: Donnelly (32, replaced by R Brennan 0-1), McShane (35, replaced by M Bradley)
Red cards: 0
DONEGAL: MA McGinley; E McGee, N McGee, P McGrath; K Lacey, C Gillespie, F McGlynn; A Thompson, R Kavanagh; O MacNiallais 0-2, M O'Reilly, R McHugh 0-3; E McHugh, M Murphy 0-2, 1x '45', 1f, P McBrearty 0-3, 2f
Subs: M McElhinney for Kavanagh (44), M McHugh for Thompson (53), C Toye 0-1, for McGlynn (63), EB Gallagher for Gillespie, Thompson for E McHugh (67), CA McFadden for McBrearty (71)
Yellow cards: Kavanagh (35), Thompson (51), McGrath (67)
Black cards: 0
Red cards: 0
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)