Tyrone hungry for the biggest prizes
Derry 1-17 - Tyrone 1-22
Eighteen yellow cards. Three red cards. Over 7,000 present. A manager shoved to the ground and almost 100 minutes of cross-Sperrins frantic rivalry. Perhaps nobody thought to tell Tyrone and Derry it was still only January.
The Red Hands rescued what seemed like an impossible situation in normal time, kicking three points in injury-time to force extra-time, and went on to power home to win their fifth consecutive Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup. Both teams will take enormous amounts out of the game as they begin the National League next week. The other side of it is just how much of a toll it might exact from them.
Derry looked to have it sewn up. Leading 1-5 to 0-4 at the break after a 10 minute period that yielded 1-4, they survived a Tyrone rally to compose themselves until madness struck.
Their substitute Daniel McKinless committed an illegal sliding tackle on Ronan McNamee. A yellow card for both, McNamee's second followed by a red. But Derry manager Damian Barton came on to remonstrate with referee Noel Mooney, before being shoved to the ground by Tyrone's Cathal McCarron.
McCarron and Barton both were handed marching orders. But Tyrone, inspired by man-of-the-match Conor Meyler, clawed their way back to take it to extra-time.
Six consecutive points was enough to give them a cushion, before the final significant play of the net saw Darren McCurry convert a penalty, won after a foul on Connor McAliskey by Karl McKaigue.
"People dismiss the McKenna Cup as not of much importance. We never did that, it's probably why we tend to be in as many finals and we intend to be in as many as we can," said victorious manager Mickey Harte (pictured) afterwards.
He continued: "You would need a month's training to deal with that kind of pressure and intensity. It is better than training, the boys would tell you that themselves."
On a special performance from Omagh youngster Conor Meyler, Harte enthused: "I don't have to tell you what it was like, it was a quality performance. If ever a player showed that he matured into a high quality senior player then he showed it tonight.
"He took the game to Derry, he played with real composure. He took on defenders, he still stayed in control. He had his head up, he passed the ball, did everything you would expect a good player to do."
Afterwards, his opposite number Barton left the media duties to selector Tony Scullion, who when asked about his manager's role in that unseemly spat towards the end of the game, replied: "Damian Barton, I have known him all my life. A pure gentleman, on and off the field. A GAA man through and through.
"Whatever happened on the line, Damian Barton is there for the love of the game."
He admitted that the cost of this epic may be great. The excellent Enda Lynn was stretchered off towards the end with a suspected broken bone in his ankle, while Brendan Rogers suffered a gash on his face in the first few seconds of the game.
He echoed Harte when he said: "You can train seven days a week, but that will beat any training session, 10 times over.
"It was absolutely brilliant, but I am just disappointed with our injuries. We need everybody available for us in the National League.
"I am coming out of the changing rooms and there are a lot of tired bodies, a lot of sore bodies. A few wee niggles and as I said, a few major injuries.
"Please God, they will all report to training on Monday and the majority will be fit to train."
DERRY: T Mallon; C Mullan, M Craig, K McKaigue; G McKinless, C McKaigue, D Heavron; B Rogers, E Bradley 0-2; E Lynn 0-3, J Kielt 0-3, 2f, B Heron; S Heavron, C O'Boyle 0-1f (C), R Bell 1-1 1-0 Pen, 1f. Subs: C McAtamney 0-1 for Rogers (1m), C Bradley 0-1 for S Heavron (32m), O Duffy 0-1 for Craig (41m), C Kearns 0-2 for Heron (49m), D McKinless for Bell (53m), N Forrester 0-1 for G McKinless (58m). Extra time subs: G McKinless, G McWillams 0-1f, P Quinn, S Mulgrew
Yellow cards: C McKaigue (19m), K McKaigue (26m, 88m), E Bradley (44m), Kielt (56m), D McKinless (65, 70m), Lynn (70m), Forrester (72m)
Black cards: 0
Red cards: D McKinless (70m)
TYRONE: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, HP McGeary 0-1; T McCann, Justin McMahon, B Tierney; C Cavanagh, C Clarke; H Óg Conlon, M Donnelly, C McShane 0-3; L Brennan 0-4 2f, R O'Neill 0-1, P Quinn. Subs: P McNulty, C Meyler 0-3 1f, and C McAliskey 0-3f, for Clarke, Quinn and Conlon (H-time), D McCurry 1-3, 1xpen, 1f, for O'Neill (47m), N Sludden 0-2 for McMahon (51m), J Munroe 0-1 for McShane (66m). Extra time subs: K McGeary, C McCann, P Hampsey, McShane
Yellow cards: Meyler (40m), Donnelly (47m) McNamee (49, 64m), McCurry (70m), T McCann (76m), Hampsey (84m)
Black cards: 0
Red cards: McCarron (65m), McNamee (65m)
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)