The big-game performers on Ulster final day

Niall Gartland takes a look at the footballers who have shone brightest on Ulster Championship final day in recent seasons, picking up the Man of the Match awards

2022: Brendan Rogers (Derry)

ONE of the most likeable lads on the inter-county circuit and also one of the most talented, Brendan Rogers had a game to remember as Derry won their first Ulster title in almost a quarter of a century.

He was tasked with marking the great Michael Murphy and did a sterling job, defending on the front foot and scoring a crucial late point.

Can play pretty much anywhere – he was an assured full-back last season and has been stationed in the middle of the park this time around.

2021: Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)

TYRONE stalwart Mattie Donnelly won the man of the match award for his performance in a one-point win over Monaghan at Croke Park two years ago. Funnily enough, that day is remembered as much as anything else for Rory Beggan’s pick-pocketing of Donnelly when he was haring through on goal after Beggan had been left stranded, but it was another assured performance otherwise from a player who always stands up when his county needs him. He weighed in with three points on the day, including two from play.

2020: Thomas Galligan (Cavan)

GALLIGAN isn’t available for Cavan this year, and it’s a considerable blow considering what he brings to the table. He won an All-Star for his performances in 2020 – a rare enough commodity around the Breffni County – and his stand-out showing was in their shock Ulster final win over Donegal. It was a warrior-like performance from Galligan, temporarily leaving the field of play after picking up an injury in the first-half but he returned to play a pivotal role in their surge to honours. A heroic catch when goalkeeper Raymond Galligan ws under pressure preceded the late goal that broke Donegal hearts.

2019: Jamie Brennan (Donegal)

DONEGAL claimed their second Ulster title in-a-row in quite some style with a resounding victory over Cavan during the Declan Bonner era.

The final scoreline of 1-24 to 2-16 attested to a commanding attacking performance and leading the way in that respect was Jamie Brennan, who put the game to bed with a goal with just less than an hour played.

In total he accrued 1-4 from play and generally speaking Cavan had no answer to his blistering pace and ruthlessness in front of the posts.

2018: Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher (Donegal)

ONLY 22 at the time, Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher earned the individual plaudits for a swashbuckling display in a one-sided victory over Fermanagh.

Known for his powerful charges out of defence, he drifted into an attacking position in the 15th minute and was on hand to palm home Donegal’s opening goal. He was influential throughout as Donegal made short work of a Fermanagh team that had claimed a surprise win over Monaghan in the semi-finals .

2017: Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)

TYRONE were absolutely flying it in 2017 until they came up against the Dublin juggernaut in the All-Ireland semi-final. On a sweltering day in Clones, they ran out comfortable victors in the Ulster final against Down, who were managed by the late Eamonn Burns.

The final scoreline read 2-17 to 0-15 and centre-half back Padraig Hampsey contributed to the scoreboard with a couple of long-range points early on as Tyrone asserted their dominance. From there they never really looked back.

2016: Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone)

THERE was only one option here – Sean Cavanagh produced one of the all-time great displays in an Ulster final, and one of the greatest displays of an illustrious career as Tyrone got the better of Donegal in a typically claustrophobic encounter of that era.

Cavanagh grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the second-half, scoring three points from play, including a phenomenal late effort where he seemed to beat the entire Donegal defence before splitting the posts with a sky-scraper effort under serious pressure.

2015: Conor McManus (Monaghan)

IT wasn’t easy for forwards to shine when Donegal were in their pomp, but the evergreen Conor McManus more than stood out in a fantastic personal performance in a low-scoring Ulster final clash in 2015.

The Farney men won by the bare minimum on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-11, and McManus (whose grittier qualities are sometimes underrated) weighed in with more than half of their scores on the day.

He scored six points in total, including three points from play – no mean feat given the calibre of their opposition.

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