DONEGAL suffered their second defeat in-a-row in the Dr McKenna Cup, this time at the hands of Cavan at a dry and crisp Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday afternoon, to kiss goodbye to any chance of making the knockout stages of the competition.
They meet Derry in MacCumhaill Park on Wednesday night with nothing to play for. Derry, with two wins, are favourites to advance, while Cavan and UUJ, who meet in Breffni Park, will be hoping for Donegal win to give them a chance.
For the second weekend in-a-row McGuinness opted to experiment and fielded a very much untried side. Eamon McGee, Anthony Thompson and Christy Toye were the only members of the starting 15 who featured in last August’s All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Dublin.
Patrick McBrearty and Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, who were also used extensively last summer, were introduced in the second half and Marty Boyle, Daniel McLaughlin, Stephen Griffin and Adrian Hanlon, all who saw action last summer, were also in from the start.
Otherwise it was a day for the new boys. Michael Mullin from Killybegs in goal; Declan Walsh (Malin), Johnny Bonner (Naomh Conaill), Thomas McKinley (Naomh Colmcille) in defence; Conor Classon (Ardara) in midfield and Gary McFadden (Glenswilly), Marty O’Reilly (Sean MacCumhaills) and Christopher Murrin (Killybegs) in attack, all got an opportunity to show their worth.
And as an exercise it was worthwhile as Declan Walsh, McKinley and O’ Reilly especially showed they have something to offer.
But the real plus on the day was the performance of Stephen Griffin on the edge of the square.
The St Naul’s man scored 1-4 all in the first half and finally fulfilled some of the promise he has shown for years for St. Naul’s and at underage for the county.
It was the prowess of Griffin in front of the posts and the performances further out the field of Walsh, McKinley, Daniel McLaughlin and O’Reilly that ensured that Donegal, if something against the run of play, were 1-7 to 0-9 up at half-time.
But it was a different story altogether in the second half as the tide turned very much in favour of the locals.
This was due in no small way to the domination of Gearoid McKiernan, David Givney and Declan McKiernan around midfield.
And with Eugene Keating, Niall McDermott and Niall Smith enjoying a liberal supply, the Cavan attack delivered and had turned a one point deficit into a six point advantage by the time Christy Toye scored Donegal only point of the half on 60 minutes.
A McDermott goal from the rebound after Mulllin had saved his initial spot kick was the game’s defining score and for the first time put a little bit of daylight between the sides. The Cavan goal was on 52 minutes after Paul Galligan was adjudged to have been fouled in inside the Donegal rectangle and McDermott following up his initial strike drove home.
The goal opened up a three point advantage 1-10 to 1-7 and with Niall Smith, Barry Watters and McKiernan notching points Cavan were six up, 1-13 to 1-7 and Donegal yet to register in the second period.
Christy Toye polished off a good move that was worked all the way up they field from Mullin, McKinley, McBrearty and David Walsh with Donegal’s sole white flag of the half.
While Donegal lost McKinley to second yellow and Galligan pointed for Cavan, McBrearty did momentarily raise hopes when he struck Donegal’s second goal in injury time after another good move and fast hands from Toye and Molloy. But in the end it was no more than a consolation score.
Cavan opened with great bluster thanks to two quick fire points from McKiernan and Smith inside the opening minute.
McLaughlin responded with a delightful strike for Donegal’s opener on six minutes and the St Michael’s man added a second two minutes later in response to a Galligan free.
Galligan, Griffin and McDermott traded scores before Keating pointed on 16 minutes to give the locals a two point advantage 0-6 to 0-4.
But that advantage was short-lived as two minutes later Griffin, after good approach play from Marty Boyle and O’Reilly, rattled the back of the Cavan net.
In front for the first time the Ulster champions enjoyed a good close to the half with points from McFadden and Griffin (2) to just one from Gearoid McKiernan.
Donegal: Michael Mullin; Declan Walsh, Eamonn McGee, Johnny Bonner; Marty Boyle, Anthony Thompson, Thomas McKinley; Conor Classon, Christy Toye (0-1); Marty O’Reilly, Daniel McLaughlin (0-2), Gary McFadden (0-1); Christopher Murrin, Stephen Griffin (1-4, 3f), Adrian Hanlon. Subs: Conor McManus for Marty Boyle (h/t); Dermot Molloy for A. Hanlon (inj) (h/t); Patrick McBrearty (1-0) for C. Murrin (42, inj.) David Walsh for C. Murrin (inj) (56).
Cavan: Fintan Reilly; Barry Watters, Sean McCormack, Damien Barkey; Dane O’Dowd, Padraic O’Reilly, John McCutcheon; Gearoid McKiernan (0-4), David Givney; Niall Smith (0-2), Declan McKiernan (0-1), Stephen Jordon; Niall McDermott (1-2,2f), Eugene Keating (0-1), Raymond Galligan (0-4,4f). Subs: Fergal Slowey for Damien Barkey (7);
Referee: Con Reynolds (Down)
Con Reynolds had a reasonably good first half but was not as consistent in the second half and missed the incident that lead to the injury to Christopher Murrin and did not even award the Killybegs man a free when it was clear that he was taken out of it. He also ignored a blatant and late charge on Patrick McBrearty on one occasion just after he released the ball. But really he had no option but to show Thomas McKinley a second yellow card for a crude tackle.
Man of the Match
Gearoid McKiernan kicked three points from midfield – all from play - and his penetrating runs from midfield inflicted a lot of pain on the Donegal defence and wins the man of the match award.
Stephen Griffin with 1-4, all in the first half and was really on his game until the supply lines dried up in the second half, was Donegal’s man of the match.
The big turning point was the Cavan goal from Niall McDermott, who drove to the Donegal net on 52 minutes after his initial spot kick was saved by Michael Mullin.
The goal propelled Cavan into a 1-10 to 1-7 lead and three points up for the first time.