Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Donegal’s reign as Ulster champions is over following Saturday’s one point defeat by Cavan in the Ulster semi final played in Killyclogher, Tyrone.

Cavan . . . . 1-9

Donegal . . 1-8

The first-time champions from last year came agonisingly close to snatching a dramatic win late on after they came from  behind in the last quarter.

Donegal were without up to six of the team that won that first Ulster crown last summer against Monaghan. Influential half forward Shannon McGroddy also sat out the game with an injury.

Nevertheless Micheal Naughton fielded a strong side with goalkeeper Aoife McColgan the only championship debutant.

Cavan  led by two points, 0-5 to 0-3, at the end of a cagey opening 30 minutes.

The Breffni ladies were a little crisper in the tackle and were up on their toes from the off. Donegal on the other hand only played in fits and starts in the opening half and their paltry three-point return for 30 plus minutes of play told its own story.

Amber Barrett from play had the game's opening score, Karen Guthrie and Yvonne McMonagle, both from frees, scored their other first half points.

Cavan were only marginally better in the scoring stakes but were guilty of some wayward shooting. They posted six first half wides to Donegal’s three.

Aisling Doonan hit the Breffni Blues' opening three points, all from frees generated from Cavan forwards running at the Donegal defence and forcing the foul.

Donegal at times were a little undisciplined and lazy in the tackle and were punished by Doonan.

The sides were level three times in the first period before Cavan produced a strong finish and two late points from Amy Rooney and Caitriona Smith.

It could have been different at half time if Amber Barrett had found the Cavan net when she blasted across the goals and wide after a penetrating run early in the second quarter.

Former All Star McMonagle lofted over an early point on the resumption to reduce the margin to the minimum. However, points from Aisling Traynor and Donnan opened up a three point Cavan lead for the first time in the contest.

With the title on the line, Kathy Herron was moved to midfield and Yvonne McMonagle started to come deeper. Paula McGroary, with her first touch after being introduced, reduced the lead to two, 0-7 to 0-5.

While Doonan restored Cavan's three point lead, the momentum was with Donegal. Herron drove forward for a super point and the lead was back two as the clock ticked into the final quarter.

Donegal were in front four minutes later when Amber Barrett rattled the Cavan net from a tight angle after good interplay from Yvonne McMonagle and Niamh Hegarty.

Donegal were in front by one, 1-6 to 0-8 with ten minutes remaining.

But the lead was short lived and one minute later Amy Mooney polished off a sweeping move with a well taken goal for a 1-8 to 1-6 lead. Donegal pressed in the closing minutes and McMonagle posted two points either side of one from Doonan as Cavan held on.

Cavan: Clodagh Doonan; Shauna Lynch, Rachael Jordan, Joanne  Mooney; Sheila Reilly, Laura Fitzpatrick, Sinead Greene; Donna English, Rosie Crowe; Roisin O’Keefe, Aisling Traynor (0-1), Neasa Byrd; Caitriona Smith (0-1), Aisling Doonan(0-6, 3f), Amy Rooney (1-1).

Donegal: Aoife McColgan; Teresa Doherty, Kelly Wilson, Deirdre Foley; Theresa McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Kathy Herron (0-1); Grainne Houston, Karen Guthrie (0-1, 1f); Roisin Friel, Niamh Hegarty, Carol Breslin; Eilish Ward, Yvonne McMonagle (0-4, 1f), Amber Barrett (1-1). Subs: Paula McGroary (0-1) for C Breslin 43; Kaneisha McKinney for R Friel 49.

Referee: Eugene O’Hare (Down).