Tyrone 0-13 Donegal 0-11
Tyrone came from behind to win their first Ulster SFC title since 2010, late points from Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary thwarting Donegal at Clones by 0-13 to 0-11.
A tense, defensive decider was nonetheless intriguing, and kept a sell-out crowd of 33,433 captivated right until the end, when the Red Hands finally pulled clear inspired by their captain Sean Cavanagh, who brought them back from the brink on more than one occasion with stunning scores.
Tyrone survived relentless Donegal pressure to turn over possession and break for Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary to fire over the clinching scores deep into stoppage time.
The game only began to open up in those closing stages, after more than an hour of tactical, caluclated defending on the part of both sides.
Not only were Tyrone conceding Donegal’s kick-outs, but they systematically retreated deep into their own half, committing to the tackle only when their opponents encroached on their 45 metre line
But they paid a price for inviting a team of Donegal’s quality on to them.
Men with the ability to kick scores from long range revelled in the space afforded to them far from the posts, with Ryan McHugh bombing over three gems, and Odhran MacNiallias also finding the target from distance.
McHugh was at the centre of virtually every attack, and was also responsible for winning the frees that Paddy McBearty converted.
That was after the Red Hands eased ahead early on with points from goalkeeper Niall Morgan, from a free, and Cathal McShane.
Michael Murphy, whose every move was covered by man-marker Cathal McCarron, didn’t score from play, but nailed a ’45 as the men from the northwest kept their noses in front.
Tyrone were also allowed space to get close to the scoring zone, and kept in touch with scores from Niall Sludden and McCarron.
McBrearty’s second free pushed Donegal into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead, and late in the half, Tyrone’s troubles intensified when they lost Mattie Donnelly and McShane to black cards.
Donnelly walked after taking down Eoin McHugh with a late challenge, while McShane’s hand-trip on Eamonn McGee was also punished by referee David Coldrick.
Three points separated the sides at the end of a tense and cagey opening half, but Mickey Harte’s side closed the gap, Peter Harte creating a score for substitute Rory Brennan, before steering over one of his own.
Now pushing up on Mark Anthony McGinley’s kick-outs, they were able to garner added possession that Sean Cavanagh used to punch over a point that reduced the gap to one.
Another massive free from Morgan brought them level, but Donegal pressed relentlessly, pulling back scores through MacNiallais, Murphy and substitute Christy Toye, who edged them back in front with little more than a minute of normal time to play.
The game had belatedly caught fire, and a breathtaking finale from the Red Hands saw them force turnovers and nail the scores that were to bring back the Anglo-Celt Cup.
Cavanagh’s third was the best of the lot, and late points from Harte and substitute McGeary swung it for Mickey Harte’s men.
Donegal: MA McGinley P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee, C Gillespie, K Lacey, F McGlynn, R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais (0-02), R McHugh (0-03), M O’Reilly, A Thompson, P McBrearty (0-03, 2f), M Murphy (0-02, 1 ’45, 1f), E McHugh.
Subs: M McElhinney for Kavanagh (44), M McHugh for Thompson (53), C Toye (0-01) for McGlynn (63), E Gallagher for Gillespie (66), A Thompson for E McHugh (66), C McFadden for McBearty (70)
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-02, 2f), A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron (0-01), T McCann, J McMahon, R McNabb, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly, C McShane (0-01), N Sludden (0-01), P Harte (0-02), C McAliskey, S Cavanagh (0-03), R O’Neill.
Subs: R Brennan (0-01) for Donnelly (33 BC) M Bradey for McShane (37 BC), J Munroe for O’Neill (53), D McCurry (0-01) for McAliskey (63), K McGeary (0-01) for McMahon (70)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).