Donegal are safely through to an Ulster semi-final meeting with Tyrone after they brushed aside the Cavan challenge with ease in Breffni Park on Sunday.
Report: Peter Campbell
Photos: Thomas Gallagher
Much of their preparation for that semi-final in two weeks time will be dominated by the GAA courts as the county are likely to appeal the red card picked up by captain Michael Murphy after 16 minutes of this contest. Not many saw the incident when it happened but after reviewing it on television, they may have a good case for the appeal.
Many will say that referee Marty Duffy was influenced by the fact that he had shown a red card to Cavan’s Ray Cullivan eight minutes earlier after he led with his foot when fielding a ball and connecting in a dangerous manner with the chest area of Kevin Cassidy.
The red cards so early in the game were the big talking points of the game but overall Donegal proved just too good with Colm McFadden stepping up to the plate when Murphy was dismissed and young Patrick McBrearty also proving his worth.
The crowd of 9,325 reflected the big decrease that has been a factor at all games this year.
The difficult playing conditions and the low temperature were more akin to a National League game in February that the Ulster Championship in June.
Both sides reverted to having an extra defender from the throw-in and Cavan looked the more lively in the opening quarter despite playing into the wind and rain.
They were on the scoreboard inside a minute with Seanie Johnston being fouled on 20 seconds and he had the free over the Donegal bar with 56 seconds on the clock.
While Michael Murphy levelled from a free, Cavan were reduced to 14 before young Niall McDermott won and pointed a free. Donegal lost Murphy on 16 minutes but Colm McFadden had them level and then on 20 minutes came the big score of the opening half. Mark McHugh’s sideline was won by young Patrick McBrearty and he fired first time along the ground to find the Cavan net.
Donegal never looked back with McFadden (2) and Kevin Cassidy adding points while McBrearty hit another beauty from 45m. Cavan could only manage another McDermott free as they failed to score from play in the opening half.
Half-time: Donegal 1-6, Cavan 0-3.
Kevin Rafferty, while struggling in the opening quarter, really came into the game in the second quarter and he put Donegal on their way within 26 seconds of the restart, floating over a great point.
Gearoid McKiernan had Cavan’s first point from play but Donegal had the game in the bag by the 43rd minute as Karl Lacey set up Colm McFadden for a point and then the St. Michael’s man put Rory Kavanagh through to fire home the second goal. The Cavan defence was completely opened with Ryan Bradley the only player looking likely to tackle Kavanagh on his way through!
Donegal were playing a much more direct style of game than their opening game against Antrim with Paul Durcan impressing with driven his kick-outs. Patrick McBrearty finished a great move started by one of Durcan’s specials which found Kevin Rafferty and the St. Eunan’s man sent McBrearty on his way.
As the game trundled to its obvious conclusion Donegal were able to bring in Leo McLoone for his comeback and within a minute of his introduction he had fired over a point. McLoone broke his ankle on March 6th and to be back in just over three months is testament to his application in getting back in double quick time. It was felt that, at best, it would be late July or early August before he would be back, but thanks to expert medical attention and single-minded application, Leo was back much quicker. Leo senior was beside us in the press box and his smile as he saw him warm up was as broad as the Gweebarra.
Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy also came in and hit two magnificent points while Karl Lacey was denied his place on the scoresheet by a matter of inches. His runs out of defence would have deserved the reward.
Cavan did have a couple of late consolation points and they were awarded a ‘soft’ penalty in added time. Paul Durcan did well to save Seanie Johnston’s spot kick but Michael Brennan was following up to find the net and put a better gloss on the final scoreline.
There will be tougher games ahead but there is a consistency now about some of the Donegal performances with Paul Durcan again excellent; is there a better full-back in Ireland at the moment that Neil McGee; Karl Lacey was back at corner-back for the first time but he still had the energy to get forward time after time; Kevin Cassidy was very solid; the midfield pairing of Rory Kavanagh and Kevin Rafferty were excellent with Rafferty playing like a veteran; up front Colm McFadden became a leader when Michael Murphy was dismissed, while Patrick McBrearty looked completely at home and - the goal apart - his points were class.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Karl Lacey, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Kevin Cassidy (0-1), Anthony Thompson, Marty Boyle; Rory Kavanagh (1-0), Kevin Rafferty (0-1); Mark McHugh, Martin McElhinney, Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty (1-3,1f), Michael Murphy (0-1,f), Colm McFadden (0-5,2f). Subs., Michael Hegarty for McElhinney 29; Leo McLoone (0-1) for Cassidy 51; Dermot Molloy (0-2) for Bradley 55; Neil Gallagher for Rafferty 58; David Walsh for McHugh 63.
Cavan: James Reilly; Dermot Sheridan, Patrick Carroll, Dane O’Dowd; Niall Murray, John McCutcheon, Damien Reilly; Gearoid McKiernan (0-1), David Givney; Ray Cullivan, Michael Lyng, Fergal Flanagan (0-1); Niall McDermott (0-4,3f), Eugene Keating, Seanie Johnston (0-1,f). Subs., Garrett Small for Lyng 45; Mark McKeever for D Reilly 48; Thomas Corr for D Sheridan 51; Cian Mackey for Murray 57; Michael Brennan (1-1) for Keating 60.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)
Man of the match
The contenders were all in Donegal jerseys with Neil McGee, Karl Lacey and Colm McFadden the frontrunners. The award goes to McFadden, who took the game by the scruff of the neck when Michael Murphy was dismissed. But you would have to be impressed with McGee and Lacey also as well as others.
The opening goal from Patrick McBrearty put Donegal on their way, but the second one from Rory Kavanagh put the game beyond doubt.
Marty Duffy will be asked to look at the dismissal of Michael Murphy. There must have been a hint that he was using the challenge to even things up after he had dismissed Ray Cullivan eight minutes earlier. It may also be a lesson for the Donegal captain that there are times when you don’t need to get involved, especially after your opponents have had a man sent off. Duffy’s yellow card for Eugene Keating late in the game after he clothes-lined Karl Lacey will also be under scrutiny, which underlined a bad day at the office for the Sligo official.