As a deflated Donegal U-21 manager Maxi Curran was sharing his post-match thoughts with a few understanding journalists, one of his Tyrone counterparts - the great Peter Canavan - was getting drenched with a bucket of water amid screams of joyous devilment.
Both were just a few yards from the Celtic Park dressing rooms, where there was another state of juxtaposition. Delirium in the one to the right and complete silence to the left.
Canavan, a backroom member of Feargal Logan’s with Tyrone’s U-21 side, had just seen his native county pip Curran’s Donegal team with an injury time point to win the Ulster championship, 1-11 to 0-13.
One kick of the ball - as it turns out it was Daniel McNulty’s from the winning free in the 62nd minute - brought with it the contrast. There wasn’t much in it on the pitch but off of it afterwards there most certainly was.
Logan later revealed the soaking was for “the special man who is almost 50.” Canavan in fact turned 44 on Wednesday but at the stage that numbers weren’t so important.
As Canavan turned to head for the showers, he faced Curran eye to eye and offered an almost apologetic and sincere handshake and motioned they’d have a word again in private. Curran nodded and continued to speak.
“We had some bad decisions and shot selections there when the game was in the melting pot,” he said. “That’s football. You don’t get reward for getting beaten like that – it’s all about on the night. We weren’t good enough tonight and Tyrone were the better team.”
Curran was right. Over the course of the 60-odd minutes, Tyrone were the better team and the better team for longer spells. But with Donegal reaching their highest gear late in the match to peg themselves level, they had a massive opportunity.
It was like when a boxer comes out for the last round in search of that elusive knock-out blow. Should he land the haymaker, then few will ever remember the rounds when he was getting beaten on the judges’ scorecards that went on beforehand.
“We finished all our games well, but that’s of no consolation,” Curran added. “We had chances. We made wrong selections, missed tackles, things like that.
“They are very disappointed young men in there. They’ve given us an awful lot. You just have to wonder what you need to do to get over the line. Some of these boys will never know because they’ll move on. The core of them, the likes of Ryan and Eoin McHugh, Hugh McFadden, Willie Gillespie, Conor Parke, will never get the chance to redeem themselves.”
Donegal pushed onto Tyrone’s kick-outs early on but weren’t able to make much of a telling impact onto Sean Fox’s cute deliveries. Conor Meyler, on nine minutes, cut Donegal momentarily open and the Tyrone wing-forward’s goal concluded a flowing move.
Tyrone were 1-6 to 0-6 in front at the break and over the course of what had gone on beforehand, Curran might even have taken that in the circumstances.
“They knew they hadn’t done themselves justice and that there was more in them,” was how he described the scene during half-time interval. “They knew they could do better. We just said for them to roll the sleeves up and to believe in the ability. They had the potential to take this Tyrone team.
“Possibly from a tactics perspective we maybe were a bit naïve. We got a bit of a lesson in the first half from kick-outs and they were causing all sorts of bother. We should maybe have pushed back up a wee bit sooner.”
The dejection on the face of Curran, who was sent to the stands late on for protestations at Celtic Park, was palpable, especially when it’s considered it was his third time in succession being the beaten Ulster finalist as a manager. Same sight; different night.
He’s been involved now for four years as manager having also been in on what 2010 and 2011 manager Jim McGuinness terms as the “support team.”
In fact, it was in the 58th minute of last year’s final at Armagh’s Athletic Grounds that Liam Buchanan’s goal effectively landed Cavan their fourth successive title, turning water into wine in a 2-6 to 0-8 win. Last night, in the exact same minute, Stephen McBrearty was on hand to level for Donegal, 0-13 to 1-10. Karma, it was hoped, was coming full circle at last for Curran and Donegal.
“They looked very dangerous on the counter all night and we knew we’d have to go at them to see the game out,” he added of Tyrone. “They always had the potential to get up the field for scores, especially when we were pushing hard. It was end-to-end stuff and they had enough to get over the line. At the end of the day Tyrone deserved their victory. Our lads gave it everything in the second half, but just came up short.
“There are fantastic players in there and a good core of minors from last year coming through who’ll get another crack at it. The future is very bright for Donegal. We’ve done the county proud. They’ve all done their level best.”
Whether Curran will be involved again with the county U-21s in 2016 remains to be seen. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I was appointed for one year there, so that’s where it’s at.”