Johnny McGroddy . . . had shooting boots again for Donegal
Donegal eventually cruised to an impressive victory over 14- man Cavan in an absorbing affair in Kingspan Breffni Park.
And while this victory was thoroughly deserved, the sending off of Cavan’s inspirational full-back Peter Smith just before half-time was a key moment in this thrilling match.
Smith was given a straight red card for a most clumsy challenge on Donegal’s wing back Conor Coyle (who shipped four really heavy hits).
Tir Conaill went in at half-time leading by 0-10 to 1-5 after an interesting shoot-out in the opening half.
And while brave Cavan had the better of the early stages of the second half, once again super sub Shane Monaghan struck for goal with devastating effect in the 45th minute.
Monaghan was in the right place yet again to take a pass from the hard-working Ciaran Moore before calmly finding the net to put the winners ahead by 1-13 to 1-7.
And even though there were 15 minutes remaining, the result was never in any doubt with Irish International U-17 soccer star Sean McEvoy rounding off a richly entertaining match with a wonderful goal for Cavan as he beat four Donegal defenders before smashing the ball to the net in the 63rd minute.
But man of the match was clearly Eoin Dowling, as the St Eunan’s midfielder gave a superb exhibition of high fielding and accuracy that will live long in the memory.
Cavan opened the scoring with a wonderful long-range point from Caolan McCabe in the first minute, which set the tone for some superb points from both sides.
But it took Cavan another 17 minutes to score as Donegal produced a power packed display to sprint into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead by the 16th minute.
Those scores began with the first of three brilliantly struck points from towering midfielder Eoin Dowling with marksman Johnny McGroddy nudging Tir Conaill into the lead from a free in the 3rd minute.
It was all Donegal in this period and full forward Eric Carr rouned off a great intricate, patient moved with a well struck point in the 5th minute to put Tir Conaill into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
Cavan were living dangerously with a constant reliance on the short kick out and it took a superb dispossession from Peter Smith to stop Donegal’s Paul O’Hare bearing down on goal.
Dowling then drew gasps of admiration, especially from old timers with a wonderful point from all of 50 metres and he followed this up with another point to leave Donegal ahead by 0-5 to 0-1
Carr added another point to leave it 0-6 to 0-2, before Cavan roused form their slumbers and had a badly needed point from Smith and Darryl McGurren made it 0-6 to 0-3 from a pointed free.
Matters were growing in intensity as the Breffni boys gradually got back into the game.
McGroddy then made it 0-7 to 0-3, before Cavan hit them with 1-1 inn a blistering 30 seconds that turned this thriller totally on its head.
Cavan’s Tiarnan Madden caught the ball and made a great turn on the edge of the Donegal square before finding Cian Farrelly who clinically dispatched the ball to the Tir Conaill net.
Madden quickly followed this up with a fine point to level matters at 1-4 to 0-7.
But Donegal did not panic and points from McGroddy and Paul O’Hare pushed the winners to a 0-10 to 1-5 lead before Smith costly moment of madness.
14-man Cavan took the game to Donegal and created a number of chances in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
But they hit three bad wides as Tir Conaill replied with points from Eric Carr and McGroddy before Monaghan’s clinching goal.
Donegal now have a five week break for Leaving Cert exams etc and now meet reigning champions Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final
DONEGAL: Daithi Roberts; Jamie Grant Kieran Tobin, Dylan Dorrian; Conor Coyle, Jack Gallagher (0-1), Ryan McShane; Kealan Dunleavy, Eoin Dowling (0-4,3f); Carlos O’Reilly, Paul O’Hare (0-2) Ciaran Moore (0-1); Jonathan McGroddy (0-7,5f) Eric Carr (0-3), Eoin De Burca. Subs: Shane Monaghan (1-0) for Carlos O’Reilly Richard O’Rourke for Eoin De Burca (43), Eoin Martin for Paul O’Hare (57), Shane Meehan for Kieran Tobin (59) Alex McCalmont for Jamie Grant (60), Matthew Gallagher for Eric Carr (61),
Cavan: Alan Murray; Cian Reilly, Peter Smith (0-1) Ronan Trainor; Cian Farrelly (1-0) James McCahill, Caolan McCabe (0-1); Philip Smyth, Caoimhin McGovern (0-1); Sean McEvoy (1-0) Fiontann O’Reilly, Tiarnan Madden (0-1); Evan Kelly, Darryl McGurren (0-21f), Jack Tully (0-1). Subs: Jack Mooney for Cian Farrelly (44), Colin McKiernan for Evan Kelly (47), Matthew McGahern for Fiontann O’Reilly (50), Shane Tynan for Ronan Trainor (35), Caolan O’Reilly for Darryl McGurren (56),
REFEREE: Dan Mullan (Derry)