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Clones was shining brightly for Arlene on a simply stunning Finals day

By Declan Bogue

A few observations from the Ulster final have to be recorded before they go out of our head. Let's call it a 'listicle'.

1. The atmosphere in Clones on Sunday was almost ethereal.

Perhaps it was the novelty of a county such as Fermanagh there on the day, but there was an incredible lightness of being among the gathering at the foot of Fermanagh Street.

2. The football wasn't great now, all being said. Donegal came up with a plan, threw five strapping men across the middle and ate up Pat Cadden's kickout. The attack malfunctioned for Fermanagh and it will be something Rory Gallagher must address. But at the time of Ryan Jones' harsh sending off, Fermanagh were seven points down. They might have battled that back to five if he remained on the pitch. And that matters to players.

3. It's a crying shame that Patrick McBrearty has ruptured his cruciate. He has been a joy to watch all year. There are no consolations with these things, but it is incredible to note that he is still a mere 24 years old, with eight seasons under his belt.

4. The reception and grace afforded to DUP leader Arlene Foster wasn't surprising to those that follow the Ulster Council's outreach work closely. The entire operation was delicate, and there must have been several bridges to cross, but it was worth it. The games must be inclusive and political leaders have a responsibility in this regard.

5. The banner made in her honour by a crowd of madmen from Tempo was pretty impressive.

6. The heat. Wow!

7. Perhaps it is because they have vaguely similar characteristics, the Donegal and Fermanagh fans mixed brilliantly with each other inside and outside the ground. At present, we are reading 'Two Tribes', the recent Tony Evans book about harmony between Liverpool and Everton at the 1986 FA Cup final. It was such a novelty, a book has been written about it. The GAA has that every week, and it gets taken for granted.

8. There was a lot of class on show from Donegal. They didn't pick up a single card, and in Michael Murphy's victorious speech, he gave a warm tribute to Pat Shovelin, their former goalkeeping coach who passed away in the last year.

9. Rory Gallagher was given a lot of respect from the Donegal players, who greeted him at the end.

10. Ryan McHugh is simply sensational.

It's not just how nimble his footwork is, but the vision to dish off handpasses while sprinting at full speed is under-rated. Like Frank McGlynn, he appears to have never lost a ball or been caught in possession.

11. Hell is an hour spent moving the few miles from Newtownbutler to Lisnaskea after an Ulster final with the tar melting around you.

12. The overall vibe and atmosphere of Clones will never be replaced. In time, Ulster finals will be staged at a swankier spot, and we will all wonder why we tried to fix what wasn't broken.

Belfast Telegraph

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