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Danny McNulty is the Tyrone hero as late free yields trophy

Tyrone 1-11-0-13 Donegal

By Declan Bogue

Published 09/04/2015

Eyes on the prize: Tyrone’s Ruairi McGlone battles with Donegal’s Michael Miller and Conor Morrison
Eyes on the prize: Tyrone’s Ruairi McGlone battles with Donegal’s Michael Miller and Conor Morrison

Heaven knows how Tyrone pulled this one off in injury time, but the outpouring of emotion that greeted Danny McNulty's last-gasp free and the final whistle shows how their fans have hungered for an Ulster title.

After playing second fiddle for most of the match, the Tir Chonaill men rattled off three consecutive points from the busy Darach O'Connor, Eamonn McGrath and second-half substitute Stephen McBrearty.

Ryan McHugh had a chance to win it but his shot drifted wide.

While Tyrone looked out on their feet with players collapsing with cramp all over the field, sub Peter McKenna transferred the ball to the impressive Cathal McShane, who was upended by Ciaran Thompson. McNulty, lying in a heap with cramp only seconds before, held his nerve to drill over the resultant free.

Red Hands manager Feargal Logan, captain of the senior team when they won the 1996 Ulster Championship, took fearsome slaps on his heavily-padded Gilet as fans poured onto the pitch to greet a rare win over Donegal.

"You saw how important it was there with the emotion that spilled out at the end," said Logan. "They had all the momentum coming into the last five minutes and then they drew level.

"I was thinking that it would go to extra time and we would have been lucky to get it. Our boys have dug themselves out all year and they went and dug that out tonight."

The first half was characterised by cagey play by both teams. Donegal left O'Connor on his own on the edge of the square with Ruairi Mullan to keep him company.

Meanwhile, McNulty was the solitary Red Hands attacker permitted to remain within 65 metres of the Donegal goal, with Conor Parke in close proximity.

The early energy came from Tyrone, McNulty running a ball out of play and Matthew Walsh clipping the post with a shot before McNulty got the scoreboard up and running.

Hugh McFadden and Eoin McHugh answered back for Donegal, before the only goal of the game.

Conor Meyler, who lobbed a nice goal in the semi-final, came off the shoulder of Ruairi McGlone before receiving the pass and stabbing to the net.

While McShane was central to everything Tyrone were doing, the McHugh cousins, Ryan and Eoin, posed a similar threat for Donegal.

Ciaran McLaughlin was black carded in the first half for a challenge on Ryan, while McGlone entered the referee's book just a minute later for a closed-fist challenge.

And while Donegal chipped at the lead, Tyrone had enough to answer them with three first-half points from Lee Brennan, his second from play a delight to leave Tyrone in the lead at half time, 1-6 to 0-6.

The second half followed pretty much the same pattern, the game finely balanced before Donegal came on strong with a late rally that seemed to have Tyrone stretched on the rack.

But just when you thought they had it in their grasp, a Tyrone attack brought about that late winner.

Logan hailed it afterwards as being even sweeter than winning a provincial title as a player, saying: "I have to put this success down as the best because so much work went into it and we really, really needed it.

"We needed to put Donegal on the backfoot again and we just managed to pull it off by the skin of our teeth, I simply can't believe it."

Tyrone now go on to meet Roscommon on Saturday, April 18 in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Belfast Telegraph

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