Donegal cruised into the Ulster championship quarter-final against a lightweight Cavan challenge in Breffni Park on Sunday.
The final margin of six points flattered Cavan who, apart from a great display from Eugene Keating at full-forward with five points from play - were toothless.
Donegal, after a shaky start, were on top midway through the first half and a penalty by Colm McFadden on 31 minutes virtually ended the game as a contest. It put Donegal six points clear and they comfortably held that margin to the end. A penalty goal from Cavan with 13 minutes left put some life back into the contest that was largely very lacklustre in the second period.
But for Donegal, the only thing that mattered was the result and getting into the quarter-final where they will meet Derry in Sean MacCumhaill Park on Saturday 16th June (5 p.m.)
The tie, watched by 12,847, always had the potential to be a banana skin for Donegal, but in the end thanks to a wonderful display from Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher at midfield; Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey at the back and Mark McHugh, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty up front, the result was safe from a long way out.
Donegal got off to a flyer with a Rory Kavanagh marking his 100th game for the county with a point on 53 seconds. However, it was Cavan who made the early running and that was to be expected.
They almost had a goal in less than two minutes with Jack Brady’s effort coming back off the angle of crossbar and upright. Brady had their first point and David Givney and Eugene Keating, who was giving Neil McGee plenty of trouble early on, hit two great points.
But when Donegal got level through Colm McFadden (free) and Mark McHugh, they gradually began to take control of the game with Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh on top at midfield and Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey launching attack after attack.
Eugene Keating punished a mistake in the Donegal defence but between the 15th and 27th minutes it was all Donegal as Neil McGee drove forward to get them going, with Colm McFadden, Rory Kavanagh and Leo McLoone adding further points to put Donegal three clear - 0-7 to 0-4.
Four minutes from the break Donegal were six clear as a Mark McHugh centre was touched down by Colm McFadden to Patrick McBrearty and he was hauled down by Killian Clarke and referee Cormac Reilly awarded the penalty although there was probably a hint that the original foul took place just outside the line.
From the spot Colm McFadden drilled the perfect spot kick to James Reilly’s right. Two minutes later Cavan were denied once again by an upright, as Brendan Fitzpatrick’s effort for a point came back into play.
Points from McFadden and McHugh extended Donegal’s margin as the game began to slow up in the second half, Cavan unable to make any leeway into the Donegal lead. A brace of points from midfielders Kavanagh and Galllagher midway through the half had Donegal ahead by 1-12 to 0-6 and the only excitement in the half came with 13 minutes left when Neil McGee tussled with Eugene Keating on the edge of the square, in a similar incident to the Donegal first half penalty. After consulting with his umpires Brendan Reilly awarded the penalty and Niall McDermott fired to the net.
But the Breffni men were unable to make any further leeway as the game trundled to its inevitable conclusion but it was fitting that Eugene Keating had the final score, his fifth point from play for the Breffni men.
Cavan: James Reilly; Padraic O’Reilly, Damien Reilly, Ronan Flanagan; Kevin Meehan, Killian Clarke, Robert Maloney-Durham; 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-Durham; Niall McDermott (1-1, pen,f) for Fitzpatrick, both ht; Niall Smith for Flanagan 39; Kevin Tierney for McKeever 55; Raymond Galligan for Brady 60.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee (0-1), Declan Walsh; Frank McGlynn (0-1), Karl Lacey, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh (0-3), Neil Gallagher (0-1); Leo McLoone (0-2), Mark McHugh (0-2), Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty, Colm McFadden (1-6,pen,5f), David Walsh. Subs., Martin O’Reilly for Bradley 24; Martin McElhinney for D Walsh 65; Dermot Molloy for N Gallagher 67.
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)
Man of the match
On another day Eugene Keating would have got the award, but there were a number of Donegal players in contention especially Frank McGlynn, Neil Gallagher, Colm McFadden and Rory Kavanagh. The award goes to Kavanagh, who marked his 100th game with a super performance.
The Donegal penalty was the defining point of the game. It game Donegal a cushion which they never looked likely to relinquish.
Cormac Reilly had a good game, largely anonymous and willing to let the game flow. He had few difficult decisions to make and his unfussy style is refreshing compared to some of the refereeing panel who like to be the centre of attraction.
Gls Pts Frees Wides 45s
Donegal 1 7 7 1 1
Cavan 0 4 10 4 0
Donegal 0 9 9 4 1
Cavan 1 6 11 6 0
Donegal 1 16 16 5 2
Cavan 1 10 21 11 0
Yellow cards - Donegal: Rory Kavanagh, David Walsh.
Cavan: Killian Clarke, Jack Brady