The Monaghan man had a quiet word with Cooney after the declaration at the end of his winning speech as if to say he meant no offence with his jibe at the Cork man’s questioning of the series.
But Hughes’ words were greeted with a rapturous response from the Ulster supporters in the 2,860 crowd, who remained on to see him lift the silverware as the northern province retained the title they won in 2009 when they also beat Munster.
Earlier this week, Cooney suggested the series has had its day but Hughes begged to differ and so did the entertainment in yesterday’s final.
With both sides agreeable to open football and sweepers nowhere to be seen, the fare was pretty on the eye as was the marksmanship from Owen Mulligan and David Tubridy.
Donegal full-back Neil McGee turned the game decisively in Ulster’s favour two minutes from the end when he dispatched the ball past Alan Quirke after a flowing move initiated by Hughes.
Up until that, Ulster were struggling around midfield and had seen a one-point advantage at half-time — 1-7 to 0-9 — transform into a three-point deficit by the 51st minute.
A Peter Harte goal brought them right back in the game only for a shot by substitute Rory Donnelly to cannon off Lacey and into the Ulster net.
Captain Hughes added his second and third points to narrow the deficit to two before McGee’s foray up the field provided the ultimate dividend.
Ulster manager Joe Kernan was delighted for his team just as much as he was for the competition, which he feels got a shot in the arm yesterday.
“It’s not dead,” he insisted. “If this is dead, then the Sigerson has to be wiped too. There was nobody at it on Saturday.
“It is a great competition and the players love playing in it. It’s great for developing players.”
Kernan criticised the lack of promotion done for the final. “I was listening to a lot of the radio stations down south yesterday and not one of them mentioned this game was on today, which was disappointing.”
His opposite number Ger O’Sullivan agreed the competition can go from strength to strength on the back of the final’s quality.
He pinpointed the profile it had given to players from Division 4counties like Clare duo Tubridy, who scored eight points, Gary Brennan as well as Waterford’s Gary Hurney.
“I’ve seen them first hand in Munster and they’re as good as any player in Munster, nationally, really. They’ll get on any team in Ireland.”
O’Sullivan rued Munster’s missed chances when they went three points ahead twice in the second-half. We had a chance or two to go ahead by more but we didn’t take them. We left the door open.”
Kernan was thrilled with the effort of his players.
“We gave the boys the freedom to go out and play but they had to have a responsibility and couldn’t be kamikaze.
“They did that and they worked for each other — when somebody went up, somebody covered. The ball that Darren Hughes broke to win the ball for the winning goal ... bad players don’t win them balls — wholehearted players do and it just epitomised what the boys were like all day.”
By half time, Tubridy and Paddy Kelly had notched all but two of Munster’s total of nine points. Munster looked to attack as much as possible but they discovered the consequence was gaps between their two back lines, which Mulligan exploited at will.
The Tyrone player had bagged three points by the break while winning a free, which Martin Penrose converted, and setting up Mark Poland with a superb pass for another score.
Poland was the recipient of another terrific ball from Benny Coulter to score Ulster’s first goal.
It was their first of three as Munster, despite Tubridy and Paul Kerrigan’s tag team partnership in the second-half, found out to their cost.
Scorers for Ulster: M Poland 1-1 (1f), O Mulligan 0-4 (1f), P Harte, N McGee 1-0, D Hughes 0-3 (2 45s), M Penrose 0-2 (1f), D Gordon 0-1.
Scorers for Munster: D Tubridy 0-8 (3fs, 1 45), P Kerrigan 0-3, K Lacey (og) 1-0, P Kelly, G Hurney (f) 0-2 each.
ULSTER: B McVeigh (Down); B Donaghy (Armagh), N McGee, K Lacey (both Donegal); J Loughrey (Antrim), D Hughes (Monaghan), C McKeever (Armagh); D Gordon (Down), R Kavanagh (Donegal); P Harte (Tyrone), M Poland (Down), M Penrose (Tyrone); C Gilligan (Derry), B Coulter (Down), O Mulligan (Tyrone).
Subs: Joe McMahon (Tyrone) for Gilligan (inj. 23), O Lennon (Monaghan) for Kavanagh (47), V Corey (Monaghan) for Loughrey (50).
MUNSTER: A Quirke (Cork); A O’Mahony (Kerry), J McCarthy, S Lavin (both Limerick); T Ó Se (Kerry), G Canty, P Kissane (both Cork); G Brennan (Clare), S Scanlon (Kerry); P Kelly, P Kerrigan (both Cork), J Cooke (Limerick); D Tubridy (Clare), G Hurney (Waterford), I Ryan (Limerick).
Subs: P O’Neill (Cork) for Cooke (44); R Donnelly (Clare) for Kelly (50); M Collins for Ryan (62).
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).