A dramatic Ryan McHugh goal at the bitter end concluded Cavan’s streak of four successive Ulster U-21 championships.
McHugh was on hand to tuck past Mark Fegan in the fourth minute of injury time after the impressive Ciaran Thompson had fielded a last gasp hopeful ball into the square by full-back Conor Parke.
It was perfect redemption for McHugh, who had seen a penalty saved by the Cavan goalkeeper on 48 minutes at a stage when Donegal were struggled to regain a foothold in the contest despite an electric opening.
With the Breffni County having won each of the titles since Jim McGuinness’s Donegal variety of 2010, their loss to Maxi Curran’s contemporaries signals something of an end of an era.
In a way, it was a case of the shoe being on the other foot. Last March at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, Donegal led 0-8 to 1-3 with just over a minute remaining in the Ulster U-21 final.
However, Liam Buchanan’s goal turned the tide. And then Donegal pushed and pushed to try and restore parity only to be picked off by Michael Argue, a Joe Dillion free and a clincher from Barry Fortune.
The four-point reversal, 2-6 to 0-8, was harsh on Donegal, just as a one-point one would’ve been.
The home side, on Wednesday night, completely dominated the first quarter and led 0-5 to 0-1 by the 16th minute with Thompson on the mark three times.
Darach O’Connor could’ve goaled at a time when Donegal were dominating and the importance of that miss - after he dragged the shot narrowly wide - grew in significance the longer the contest went on.
However, Cavan, with Caoimhin O’Reilly popping over 0-3, were only 0-5 to 0-4 down at half-time.
Cavan were much the better side in the second half and went two up on two occasions.
After McHugh saw a penalty saved by Mark Fegan and it looked as though points from Enda Flanagan and O’Reilly would win it for Cavan.
Donegal went 24 minutes without a score prior to McHugh popping over a free and Hugh McFadden scored a 45 after the penalty miss but all in all, they looked as though the decent start had evaporated and there would be no spectacular finish. McHugh changed all that.
Scorers - Donegal: R McHugh 1-1 (1f), C Thompson 0-3, D McDaid (f), D Mulgrew, H McFadden (’45) 0-1 each
Cavan: C O’Reilly (3f) 0-4, C Madden 0-2, M Argue, J McCabe, E Flanagan (f) 0-1 each
DONEGAL - D Rodgers; C Morrison, C Parke, J O’Brien; T McClenaghan, R McHugh, E Gallagher; D Mulgrew, H McFadden; C Thompson, E McHugh, O Crawford; D O’Connor, D McDaid, S McBrearty.
Subs: C Mulligan for McDaid (h-t), R Carr for O’Connor (49), E McGrath for McBrearty (49)
CAVAN - M Fegan; B Fortune, M Magee, F Reilly; G Smith, P Faulkner, C Brady; K Brady, M Argue; J McCabe, C Madden, A Watson; C O’Reilly, T Hayes, E Flanagan.
Subs: V Coyle for McCabe (51), N Walsh for Madden (55), N Clerkin for Fortune (black card, 56), C Daly for Faulkner (58), R Connolly for O’Reilly (59).
REF - S Hurson (Tyrone)
REF - S Hurson (Tyrone)