The northern nights: The team of the Ulster SFC

The dust has settled on the Ulster Championship with Donegal taking the title after another dramatic encounter. Michael McMullan names his team of the championship.

1 Shaun Patton (Donegal)
IT’S hard to look past him despite the competition for his spot and missing out against Tyrone with injury. His kick-outs and control of the square burst Derry’s bubble. It was the same with the high ball in Clones. His pass saw Odhrán Doherty kick the point to force penalties where his save won an 11th Ulster title.

2 Padraig Faulkner (Cavan)
BREFFNI’S play-anywhere driving force capped off a fine season to date with a strong showing in the championship arena. His turn and finish to the net sunk Monaghan and he wouldn’t take no for an answer before finding the net against Tyrone.

3 Ryan McEvoy (Down)
ANY manager in the country could find a place for Ryan McEvoy with his ability at both ends of the pitch. The Kilcoo man got forward to kick points at the start of their games against Antrim and Armagh to set the tone for Down’s want to charge forward when needed.

4 Michael McKernan (Tyrone)
ONE of the Coalisland men in the Tyrone side, he was excellent and a nailed on part of this selection. McKernan backed up his three points in Kingspan Breffni with another couple of spinners as Tyrone put themselves in a winning position against Donegal.

5 Aidan Forker (Armagh)
WHEN Down came with their excellent plan to curb Armagh, Forker’s two points were like gold in a game that was decided by the finest of margins. In the final, the Orchard County needed to come out swinging and his score set the tone for one of the best halves of action seen this year.

6 Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
AFTER plodding away with his own recovery programme, Donnelly came to the championship area with next to no game time. It didn’t matter. He was a total colossus. He controlled both of the Red Hands’ outings with his positional sense. When Tyrone needed a leader against Donegal, he thumped over a beauty.

7 Peadar Mogan (Donegal)
THE player of the championship for me. The four points he kicked only tells half the story, it’s when he kicked them. If Donegal needed a boost, he’d take on a man and put his side on the front foot. His drive to win a free in the second half of the final was one of the many turning points as Donegal clawed themselves off the canvass.

8 Dáire Ó Baoill (Donegal)
A BREATH of fresh air. Donegal’s plan for Derry was simple but it still needed an assassin. He lobbed Odhrán Lynch like he did Ross Bogue in the league. He popped up with vital scores and possessions. Even his two probing kick passes early in the final had Armagh pegged back when they’d have wanted to get on the front foot. Donegal don’t win Ulster without his championship tally of 2-5.

9 Jason McGee (Donegal)
THE story of the Ulster championship? Quite possibly. With just 77 McKenna Cup minutes and 42 in the league final, he came into the championship under the radar. He bossed Derry and got forward to score two vital points against Tyrone. His point in the final was another inch Donegal needed to battle back.

10 Stefan Campbell (Armagh)
IF he had a little more help bombing forward when Armagh had their controlled spell, the Orchard County may well have ended their famine. A 1-2 tally against Fermanagh helped his side wave goodbye to a league final disappointment and he ran himself into the ground in the final.

11 Rory Grugan (Armagh)
WHEN scores were scarce against Down, Grugan kicked five to keep Down’s ambush bid at arm’s length. He had two to his name in Brewster Park and put in another big showing in Clones on final day. He kicked a sweet score, won a vital kick-out for an Armagh score and still had the energy to make the perfect tackle on Patrick McBrearty when the game was in the balance.

12 Niall O’Donnell (Donegal)
LIKE McGee, O’Donnell was one of Donegal’s secret weapons. He missed the first nine games of the season but Jim had him primed for the championship. He was another man needing man marked and always caused trouble. A cross between a playmaker and a finisher but his two whopping points pulled Donegal out of the Armagh fire.

13 Andrew Murnin (Armagh)
GOES under the radar a lot of the time but a very consistent part of Armagh’s side. Opponents always need a top man to keep an eye on him. He kicked points against both Fermanagh and Donegal but his movement made Jason Duffy’s winner against Down. He was always a kick-out option.

14 Oisín Gallen (Donegal)
WHERE would Donegal have been in the final only for Gallen. His five bullets in the first half was the reason his side were still in the hunt. Can kick off both feet and is not afraid to roll up his sleeves. When Armagh ballooned a high ball in the second half, his flick landed in McCole’s arms and seconds later Mogan won a vital free as they began to break Armagh.

15 Conor Turbitt (Armagh)
LIKE Gallen, ‘Turbo’ lit up final day with some excellent kicking that forced Donegal to mix up their marking arrangements between McCole and Ciarán Moore. He was replaced late in the final before coming back on for Rian O’Neill. He still had the composure to stroke home his penalty in the shoot-out.

Take a listen to our Ulster final special of Gaelic Lives for a look back through the game and some reaction from the Donegal camp.

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