Donegal retained their Ulster crown with a convincing and comfortable victory over a highly rated Cavan in Cardinal MacCrory Park, in Donaghmoyle, Co. Tyone, yesterday afternoon.
Report: Tom Comack
Photos: Conor McGonagle
They did it in some style as they came from five points down early on to win pulling up with eight points to spare.
A first half goal from Owen McHugh and two second half three pointers from Brendan McLaughlin and Cathal McGettigan were the big scores and wrapped up title number 13 for the Donegal men.
Donegal now advance to play Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final – a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final – on Saturday week next, possibly in Portlaoise as curtain-raiser to the All-Ireland club semi-final meeting of Crossmaglen Rangers and Dr. Crokes, Killarney.
Despite playing with the advantage of a biting wind Donegal got off to the worst possible starts and were 1-3 to 0-1 down after five minutes.
Cavan looked the much better side in the opening quarter hour with Liam Buchanan and David Harper giving them a firm grip at midfield they carried the fight to the champions in those opening exchanges.
The full-forward line of Killian McSherry, Kevin Mulvany and Tomas Cooney posted the three points in the opening six minutes.
While Brendan McLaughlin got Donegal off the mark with a fine point after good work from Raymond McNamee, Cavan went five up shortly afterwards when Sherry hit the back of the Donegal net. McSherry was picked out in space in front of the posts by Buchanan from way out on the right hand side.
Amazingly the Breffni men did not score for the remainder of the half as Donegal took the game by the scruff of the neck. And despite losing centre-forward Conor Greene to injury they posted 1-6 without response in the second quarter.
Midfielder Hugh McFadden led the charge and all of a sudden it was a different game. And with Owen McHugh sweeping at the back and Darragh Mulgrew raiding on the wings the scores began to flow for Donegal.
In the space of five minutes Donegal reeled off three points from Raymond McNamee and two from Patrick McBrearty – one from a free – before six minutes before the break Owen McHugh first timed to the net to propel Donegal to the front for the first time.
McHugh made no mistake after taking a pass from Mulgrew.
Leading 1-4 to 1-3, Donegal added further points from Mulgrew, and McBrearty (2) to go in at half-time 1-7 to 1-4 up and leave Cavan reeling.
While three points was a good enough lead, given that they had played with the elements, no one in the Donegal camp was celebrating at half-time.
But the game began to turn green and gold very early in the second period. James Doherty landed a point within two minutes of the restart and when three minutes later Brendan McLaughlin drove home goal number two, the Donegal ribbons were already going on the cup.
Mulgrew once again provided the last pass after good work from McBrearty.
Donegal, playing the short passing game, dominated for much of the remainder of the game and Cathal McGettigan stetched the advantage out to 3-8 to 1-4, before Cavan put on a late spurt with two Mulvany points.
Things went from bad to worse when the Breffni men were reduced to 14 with the sending off of Michael Argue for what appeared a harsh straight red card.
Donegal started without Ryan McHugh; the Kilcar man broke a bone in his finger in the warm-up ahead of last Sunday’s Ulster U-21 club quarter-final with Dungiven.
He was replaced by Hugh McFadden from Killybegs, who slotted in at midfield alongside Raymond McNamee.
Cavan were forced to make one change before the start, Dominic Donegan replaced the injured Andrew Dunne in the half-back line.
Cavan were managed by James Sherry from Fermanagh with former Cavan players Seanie Johnston and Owen Lennon from Monaghan in his backroom team.
Donegal scorers: Patrick McBrearty 0-5,1f; Owen McHugh 1-0; Brendan McLaughlin 1-1; Cathal McGettigan 1-0; James Doherty, Raymond McMenamin, Darragh Mulgrew 0-1 each.
Cavan: Killian Sherry 1-1, Kevin Mulvany 0-4; Tomas Cooney 0-1.
Donegal: Sean McClafferty; Oisin Porter, Jamie Coyle, Christopher Cunningham; Darragh Mulgrew, James Doherty, Kevin Herron; Raymond McNamee, Hugh McFadden; Cathal McGettigan, Patrick McBrearty, Owen McHugh; Brendan McLaughlin, Conor Greene, Willie Gillespie. Subs: Kevin McNern for C. Greene (19); Ciaran Thompson for C. McGettigan (58).
Cavan: Corey Smith; Ciaran O’Reilly, James Cunningham, Liam McCabe; Andrew Dunne, Aaron Watson, Fergal Reilly; Liam Buchanan, David Harper; Gerald Smith, Stephen Jackson, Michael Argue; Tomas Coney, Kevin Mulvany, Killian McSherry. Subs: Greg McGovern for D. Harper(40); Gary Watters for T.Cooney (42); Paddy Smith for S.Jackson (48); Blake Carthy for K. McSherry (59)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)
Man of the match
Hugh McFadden started at midfield as a replacement for the injured Ryan McHugh and turned in a man of match performance breaking the Cavan stranglehold to turn the game in Donegal’s favour.
He gets the verdict just ahead of Owen McHugh, Darragh Mulgrew, Patrick McBrearty and James Doherty, who also played a huge ;part in the victory.
Owen McHugh’s goal on 26 minutes turned the game and saw Donegal go from 0-4 to 1-3 down to take the lead for the first time in game.
Barry Cassidy was very strict on the pick up early on and Cavan also seemed to get the benefit of a few early decisions. But he balanced it out in the second half and sent Cavan man Michael Argue off on the advice of one of linesmen.
McKelvey a happy man
“I’m very happy and proud of the boys after that performance and the way they recovered from a very poor start.
We had a really bad opening five minutes and we looked in big bother early on and it was not until half-time that we really got going and got a grip around midfield.
“We discussed things at half-time and we sorted out our midfield and Hugh McFadden and Raymond McNamee came into in the second half in a big way. Darragh Mulgrew started to get his hands on ball and James Doherty started to drive forward from the back. I thought James had a massive game and Owen McHugh swept up well in front of their full-forward line.
“We also got the goals at crucial times. Owen McHugh’s goal got us up and running and Brendan McLaughlin’s goal after half-time really set us on our way. It was for the most important score of the game. Brendan showed great awareness to sidestep his man and tuck it away. It was a super score and I thought it was the score of the game.
“It is a great victory especially without Ryan McHugh. Ryan was a huge loss and to win without one of your top men is a great achievement. But overall it was a great team performance and I’m really delighted for the boys.”