CAVAN 1-10 DONEGAL 1-16
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT KINGSPAN BREFFNI PARK
DONEGAL are safely through to an Ulster quarter-final meeting with Derry as Cavan suffered a touch of stage fright at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Colm McFadden hit 1-6 for the victors, who were never in any serious danger. Inexperienced Cavan started well and were 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at one stage – but they were waving the white flag in surrender before long.
McFadden netted a penalty in the 32nd minute to give Donegal a kick – and while Cavan netted from a penalty of their own, converted by sub Niall McDermott, Terry Hyland’s side couldn’t get close enough.
Donegal were defensive at times, but they were given a licence to attack too – as shown by the scores of Frank McGlynn and Neil McGee in the second-half. Jim McGuinness deployed a side that was very much along expected lines, though Leo McLoone was stationed on the edge of the square in one surprise move.
Aside from a brief period early on, Donegal were on top for the most part. Playing in his 100th Donegal game, Rory Kavanagh captained the team and the St Eunan’s man scored three points on an industrious afternoon.
Beside him, big Neil Gallagher continued his fine form in a Donegal shirt with a top class display that rightly earned him a rapturous ovation from the Donegal support when he made way for Dermot Molloy late in the day.
It was an encouraging display by Donegal, but the second-half was a difficult affair that had the feel of a low-key challenge game for periods and only the cheers of the healthy attendance reminded us that we were in Ulster football’s heat once again.
Cavan started well and with Jack Brady, David Givney and Eugene Keating on the mark after Kavanagh opened the scoring to lead 0-3 to 0-1 by the sixth minute.
The initial fizz from Cavan was soon settled, however, as Donegal levelled through a McFadden (free) and a clinical point from Mark
McHugh as he was falling. Cavan led again when Keating squeezed over after Robert Maloney-Derham intercepted a loose pass by Ryan Bradley.
By the 23rd minute, the Buncrana man had a watching brief as he made way for Martin O’Reilly to come in for his Championship debut.
Full-back Neil McGee made a brief, but deadly appearance in the visitors’ attack to level things up again when he pointed after scampering up to take a pass from Kavanagh. That score was the kick-start Donegal needed.
Cavan didn’t hit the target again in the final 22 minutes of the half and Donegal posted a healthy 1-4 before the break, including McGee’s score.
McFadden restored Donegal to the leader’s chair with a free and Kavanagh opened up a two-point lead with his second of the afternoon.
Leo McLoone’s summer last year was characterised by a spate of injuries that curtailed his involvement, but the Glenties man was back in action and he put Donegal three ahead, managing to get a
shot away despite heavy pressure.
The game-changer arrived three minutes before the short whistle of Cormac Reilly was sounded. A lethal breakdown by McFadden sent McBrearty on his way, only for Killian Clarke to stop him in his tracks, unfairly in the eyes of Reilly, who awarded Donegal a penalty. Colm McFadden dispatched to the net with both power and precision, leaving James Reilly with little hope of heroics in the goal.
Six up (1-7 to 0-4) at the break, Donegal were effectively home and hosed anyway, but they couldn’t have foreseen the extent to which Cavan would buckle – and only for McDermott’s penalty eleven minutes from the end, daylight would have separated them.
Neil Gallagher was denied a second Donegal goal just a minute and a half into the second period, as James Reilly saved smartly after the midfielder had slid in to get a shot away after Lacey’s ball in wasn’t dealt with.
McFadden hit a splendid point from long distance and McHugh popped up for his second score of the game and eight points suddenly opened up.
A McDermott free and a point from David Givney, who could scarcely believe the momentary space he was afforded, briefly stemmed the tide, but in between times the marauding Frank McGlynn fisted over just when it seemed as if the defence was about to part and allow him in for his first Donegal goal.
McGlynn cleverly settled for a point and with Neil Gallagher and Kavanagh continuing the rout, Cavan disintegrated and the tie evolved into something close to a challenge game.
However, Cavan had something to cheer about when McGee was adjudged to have unfairly felled Keating and McDermott steered home the penalty.
Cavan had scores from McKiernan and two from Keating, but Donegal were in no danger and McFadden hit the final three points of the visitors’ tally – two of them fantastic efforts from long-range frees.
More testing engagements await Donegal. For now, victory was the only aim and now the task turns to a rematch of last year’s final when John Brennan and Derry roll into Ballybofey next month.
Cavan: James Reilly; Padraic O’Reilly, Damien Reilly, Ronan Flanagan; Kevin Meehan, Killian Clarke, Robert Maloney-Derham; David Givney (0-2), Gearoid McKiernan (0-1); Fergal Flanagan, Mark McKeever, Jason McLoughlin; Jack Brady (0-1), Eugene Keating (0-5), Brendan Fitzpatrick. Subs: Thomas Corr for Maloney-Derham (half-time); Niall McDermott (1-1, 1-0pen, 1f)for Fitzpatrick (half-time); Niall Smith for F.Flanagan (39 mins); Kevin Tierney for McKeever (55 mins); Raymond Galligan for Brady (66 mins).
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee (0-1), Declan Walsh; Frank McGlynn (0-1), Karl Lacey, Anthony Thompson; Neil Gallagher (0-1), Rory Kavanagh (0-3); David Walsh, Mark McHugh (0-2), Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty, Colm McFadden (1-6, 1-0 pen, 5f), Leo McLoone (0-2). Subs: Martin O’Reilly for Bradley (24 mins); Martin McElhinney for David Walsh (66 mins); Dermot Molloy for Gallagher (69 mins).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)