Tyrone come of age as they chisel win over gritty Donegal in epic Ulster final

Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Final, Clones,
Monaghan 17/7/2016
Tyrone vs Donegal
Tyrone's Peter Harte celebrates a his sides point
Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Final, Clones, Monaghan 17/7/2016 Tyrone vs Donegal Tyrone's Peter Harte celebrates a his sides point Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Tyrone were crowned Ulster champions for a 14th time after a pulsating encounter with gritty Donegal in glorious weather, watched by 33,433 supporters on Sunday.

For the most part it was a defensive encounter in Clones but, as things opened up near the end, it was a real thriller - Tyrone winning the silverware via three unbelievable scores by Sean Cavanagh, Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary.

Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Final, Clones,
Monaghan 17/7/2016
Tyrone vs Donegal
Neil McGee of Donegal and Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone
Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship Final, Clones, Monaghan 17/7/2016 Tyrone vs Donegal Neil McGee of Donegal and Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Prior to that, Donegal looked as though they were going to win when substitute Christy Toye hit a fine score from the right wing. But this was a day when the Tyrone team came of age to annex a quite superb triumph.

Donegal led by three points at the break and, when they scored in the first attack of the second half, things looked ominous for the Red Hands. But they showed tremendous character and fighting spirit to chisel out a brilliant victory.

Tyrone were happy enough to concede their opponents kick-outs but that only played into Donegal’s hands as they constantly attacked the Red Hand defence in droves.

As expected, both sides set up defensively and it was Tyrone who made the brighter start with keeper Niall Morgan opening the scoring from a long-range free before Cathal McShane doubled their advantage in the tenth minute with a superb effort from play from forty metres out.

Donegal had kicked a few wides at this stage but they finally opened their account after a dozen minutes from a Paddy McBrearty free.

Captain Mickey Murphy then levelled matters from a well-struck 45 before Ryan McHugh put them ahead with a brilliant point from distance after cutting in from left wing.

Wing back McHugh was the stand-out player for Donegal in the first half, as time and again he took the game to Tyrone with another outstanding score from long range.

Niall Sludden, having a steady game for Tyrone, got a much-needed score but straight away Donegal replied, McHugh weighing in with another from the top drawer.

Tyrone put together their best move of the half, resulting in a point from an unlikely source, Cathal McCarron.

Tyrone conceding short kick-outs, Donegal weren’t under any pressure and midfielder Odhran MacNiallais landed a monster point from fully forty eight metres. McBrearty converted a free before things got worse for when they lost Mattie Donnelly and McShane to black cards.

Donegal won possession from the throw-in and Paddy McBrearty split the posts and at that stage things looked bad for the Red Hands. But they didn’t wilt, with Rory Brennan, on for Donnelly, hitting a superb point before Peter Harte followed up with one.

Cavanagh charged through to fist a point before a 48m free from keeper Morgan levelled matters going into the final quarter, MacNiallais putting Donegal back in front with an outstanding effort from play as they held Tyrone at bay.

Cavanagh continued to lead by example with a wonderful score from out on the right wing leaving it all square with nine minutes to go.

Murphy landed a spectacular long-range free but almost immediately Darren McCurry made his presence felt with a fine effort from play. Toye then looked to have won it with a point from the right wing - but Tyrone weren’t finished yet.

Johnny Munroe overturned Frank McGlynn and found Sludden who placed Cavanagh for an outrageous score and his team-mates took the lead from it. Peter Harte was all of forty eight metres out when he pointed in minute five of injury time, that quickly followed by another sublime point, this from sub Kieran McGeary as they were crowned provincial champions.

Tyrone: Niall Morgan, Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron, Tiernan McCann, Justin McMahon, Ronan McNabb, Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane, Niall Sludden, Peter Harte, Connor McAliskey, Sean Cavanagh, Ronan O’Neill. Subs: Rory Brennan for Donnelly [black card], Mark Bradley for McShane [black card], Johnny Munroe for O’Neill, Darren McCurry for McAliskey, Kieran McGeary for McMahon

Scorers: Sean Cavanagh 0-3, Peter Harte 0-2, Niall Morgan 0-2, Cathal McCarron 0-1, Cathal McShane 0-1, Niall Sludden 0-1, Rory Brennan 0-1, Darren McCurry 0-1, Kieran McGeary 0-1

Donegal: Mark Anthony McGinley, Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Ciaran Gillespie, Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn, Rory Kavanagh, Odhran MacNiallais, Anthony Thompson, Eamon McGee, Eoin McHugh, Paddy McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Martin O’Reilly. Subs: Martin McElhinney for Kavanagh, Mark McHugh for Thompson, Christy Toye for McGlynn, Eoghan Ban Gallagher for Gillespie, Anthony Thompson for Eoin McHugh, Colm McFadden for McBrearty

Scorers: Ryan McHugh 0-3, Patrick McBrearty 0-3, Mickey Murphy 0-2, Odhran MacNiallais 0-2, Christy Toye 0-1

Referee: David Coldrick, Meath