Mickey Harte guided Tyrone to a fifth Ulster title in his reign with a dramatic late show to claim an otherwise forgettable decider writes John Fogarty.
In glorious sunshine in Clones, the 33,433 crowd were subjected to a dire spectacle that really only took life in the closing stages when Peter Harte shot over an awesome shot from distance to put Tyrone ahead for the first time in the game since the 14th minute.
They had cancelled out Donegal’s four-point half-time advantage 18 minutes into the second half and while Donegal twice went ahead again each occasion they were clawed back.
Harte’s spectacular shot in the fifth minute of additional time came just after Michael Murphy sent a long-range free wide and substitute Kieran McGeary struck over another point in the following minute to help ensure a first Anglo-Celt Cup for the Red Handers since 2010. Tyrone hit 15 wides but in the end it didn’t matter.
Tyrone registered the first two points of the game but the next four came from Donegal as they were allowed to boss possession and looked so comfortable transferring the ball across the field as they looked for gaps in Tyrone’s stacked defence.
They did, via the excellent of Ryan McHugh, who helped himself to three first-half points as well as winning two frees, which were slotted over by Paddy McBrearty. Donegal’s other couple of points came from a Michael Murphy 45 and a beautifully-executed long-range score from Odhrán MacNiallais.
But McHugh’s class was just as bright as the afternoon, his eagerness to look for the ball after distributing too much for Tyrone to handle. Eoin McHugh was also too swift for Mattie Donnelly in the 31st minute and his foul on him, which saw both players require medical attention, was adjudged to be a black card offence by David Coldrick.
Cathal McShane was also shown to the sideline for a hand trip on Éamonn McGee and Tyrone’s first half was going from bad to worst. They trailed by three points at half-time but it may as well have been triple that in light of how devoid they were of effective tactics.
Their nine wides indicated they had chances but the majority of them were low percentage opportunities.
Scorers for Tyrone: S. Cavanagh (0-3); N. Morgan (frees), P. Harte (0-2 each); C. McShane, N. Sludden, C. McCarron, R. Brennan, D. McCurry, K. McGeary (0-1 each).
Scorers for Donegal: R. McHugh, P. McBrearty (2 frees) (0-3 each); O. Mac Niallas, M. Murphy (1 45, 1 free) (0-2 each); C. Toye (0-1).
TYRONE: N. Morgan; C. McCarron, R. McNamee; J. McMahon; R. McNabb, P. Harte, T. McCann; C. Cavanagh, M. Donnelly; N. Sludden, S. Cavanagh (c), C. McShane; C. McAliskey, R. O’Neill.
Subs for Tyrone: R. Brennan for M. Donnelly (black, 35+2); M. Bradley for C. McShane (black, 35+4); J. Monroe for R. O’Neill (54); D. McCurry for C. McAliskey (63); K. McGeary for J. McMahon (70+1).
DONEGAL: M.A. McGinley; É. McGee, N. McGee, P. McGrath; K. Lacey; C. Gillespie, F. McGlynn, A. Thompson; R. Kavanagh, O. Mac Niallais; M. O’Reilly, R. McHugh, E. McHugh; P. McBrearty, M. Murphy (c).
Subs for Donegal: M. McElhinney for E. McHugh (blood, 33-37); McElhinney for R. Kavanagh (44); M. McHugh for A. Thompson (54); C. Toye for F. McGlynn (inj, 64); E. Gallagher for C. Gillespie, A.
Thompson for E. McHugh (both 67); C. McFadden for P. McBrearty (70+1).
Referee: D. Coldrick (Meath).