Mickey Harte resigned himself to leaving Tyrone’s fate in the hands of God once Michael Murphy launched a mammoth free between the posts to ease Donegal ahead in the 68th minute of a cliff-hanger Ulster SFC final at Clones writes Francis Mooney.
But his prayers were answered as his players cut loose with four late scores to win a first provincial title since 2010 and lay the bogey of their north-west neighbours.
“When Mickey Murphy put them one up with a free, I really did say to myself, 'this in the hands of God', but God shone on us today,” said the Red Hand boss.
It was only in those nerve-shredding late stages that the Red Hands managed to find a way themselves to penetrate a Donegal defence that had conceded just four points in the first half.
“They play a defensive set-up, they make it hard to break them down. You gotta match that and you gotta be good on the break,” Harte added.
“And it's not easy being good on the break against Donegal. They are very good at what they do.
At the same time, if you get class points like Sean Cavanagh kicked over there, even Rory Brennan at the start of the second half, Darren McCurry who just came on as a sub. That was no easy shot, he was out quite a bit, but he is a class finisher.”
Harte paid tribute to his Captain Fantastic, Cavanagh, the multi-All-Star winner who dragged his side through a critical stage of the game with some marvellous scores.
“That's why he is the player he is; That's why he is recognised as the player around the country, the man he is.
“He is a leader. He has been there and done it since he was 19 years of age and I am just so delighted that he is lifting this Anglo-Celt Cup, because nobody deserves it more.”
Donegal boss Rory Gallagher admitted that his side struggled to break down the Tyrone defence in the second half, when the Red Hands garnered a number of scores from turnovers.
“The nature of Tyrone, they give you a lot of possession, they invite you on, and they’re very difficult to break down,” he said.
“We knew that, and we just weren’t able to break them down as consistently in the second half.”
And Gallagher felt that Frank McGlynn should have been awarded a free late on as he headed towards the Tyrone goal.
“I thought Frank probably should have got a free in, but we’ll have to look at the footage of it.”
The Tir Chonaill manager also questioned the decision of referee David Coldrick to add on six minutes of additional time. Tyrone’s clinching scores, from Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary, came in the 75th and 76th minutes.
“We didn’t see the need for six minutes, we probably thought there might be four. But it’s kinda becoming the norm.”