Even if Maurice Deegan hadn’t deemed Michael that Murphy was upended in the parallelogram in the 37th minute, even if he had adjudged Emmett McGuckin was fouled in Donegal’s danger area seven minutes from the end, one feels the score-line still would have read in favour of Jim McGuinness’ side.
While the teams were matched evenly at half-time, Donegal returned to action the more energised, the more focused and the more intent. They are never going to blow teams out of the water, this Donegal team.
Their one-point, two-point wins will be more convincing than most teams’ eight and nine-point victories simply because they operate diligently on the philosophy that a win is a win.
If they are ahead they will protect first and hope to extend it rather than going all-out to attempt to augment it and sacrifice their gain.
On this occasion, the margin of six was just about right in demarcating the difference in class and work-rate between the counties.
Derry, suffering without Eoin Bradley, had a fine first-half but their seasoned campaigners in Conleth Gilligan and Enda Muldoon, so effective in the open warfare semi-final win over Armagh, were smothered here.
Mark Lynch, who appeared to be carrying an injury, was a shining light in that game in Clones last month but looked ordinary yesterday.
It was left to James Friel to bring the fight to Donegal in the second-half, a free and then an exquisite shot on the turn in the 48th minute squeezing Donegal’s lead to three points, 1-7 to 0-7.
Donegal’s goal, of course, came from an emphatic Murphy strike from the penalty spot. Having moved to the edge of the square at the start of the second-half, the captain got his hand to a long ball put through by Michael Hegarty.
Sandwiched between Derry goalkeeper Danny Devlin and Ciarán Mullan, Murphy fell to the ground coming to contact with Devlin when attempting to gather the ball but with the naked eye the call looked harsh.
There was nothing dubious about Murphy’s kick, which scorched the net, and seemed to provoke some unsavoury exchanges between him, Paddy McBrearty and their markers Mullan and Dermot McBride afterwards.
Murphy and McBride were brandished with yellow cards but the delay did little to halt Donegal’s momentum.
Murphy acted as provider for the two points that followed, breaking down one ball to Colm McFadden and then palming off another to an unmarked Michael Hegarty on the wing.
Kielt’s brace created enough buzz to lift the Derry hearts among the 28,364 crowd but McFadden converted a free of his own making and Murphy send over a beautiful score after collecting a pass down the left line from Kevin Cassidy.
Five points in it, Derry were still getting forward enough to suggest the margin wasn’t excessive even though Donegal was strangling them as soon as they got close enough to goal.
On the one occasion they did look to threaten Paul Durcan’s net, Donegal appeared to manhandle McGuckin but Deegan saw nothing in it other than to halt play shortly afterwards so as to allow attention for the stricken Derry forward.
With that, Donegal drove on again, the Derry defence finding themselves spell-bound by a collection of passes that eventually put Hegarty through for a fine score.
Kielt booted one back but McFadden had the final say, taking another Murphy pass and pointing to the raptures of the Donegal crowd.
What followed were scenes of abandon, 1992 Ulster and All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy in the thick of it as he congratulated the new winning breed.
He was probably thanking them too as he must have grown tired of being reminded of his former deeds and the shortcomings of the Donegal sides that followed that glorious year.
But at half-time there remained doubts about whether it could finally happen.
Derry never went ahead but after Anthony Thompson notched his second and his side’s fifth point in the 21st minute they were held scoreless for the remainder of the half. They had started impressively, going 0-5 to 0-2 ahead with Thompson and Murphy’s first points coming as the indirect result of kick-outs won.
But Derry responded despite them running out of ideas as soon as they reached the 20-metre line.
It was left to a couple of long-range efforts from Charlie Kielt and a free from younger brother James to get things going for them. A Gilligan free and a well-worked move ending with substitute Martin Donaghy splitting the posts made it level although Rory Kavanagh was harshly judged to have fouled for the free that led to the latter score.
A close-range Murphy free might have given Donegal a just about deserving lead going into the break but he inexplicably missed. Good thing he had another half to make amends. Good thing for Donegal.
After five Ulster final nightmares, they could finally live the dream.
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy 1-2 (1-0 pen, 1f); C McFadden 0-4 (2f); A Thompson, M Hegarty 0-2 each; R Bradley 0-1.
Scorers for Derry: J Kielt 0-4 (2f), C Kielt 0-2; C Gilligan (1f), M Donaghy 0-1 each.
Subs for Donegal: M McElhinney for Kavanagh (inj 33); D Molloy for McBrearty (53); D Walsh for Bradley (59).
Subs for Derry: M Donaghy for Bateson (28); K McCloy for Mullan (47); D Mullan for Gilligan (59); G O’Kane for B McGoldrick, PJ McCloskey for Muldoon (both 62).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).