Cavan Gaels 5-7
At St Tiernach's Park
A remarkable Ulster SFC semi-final was decided in the sixth minute of injury time when Barry Fortune smashed to the net from close range to seal Cavan Gaels' return to the provincial final for the first time in 40 years.
Hat-trick hero Paul O'Connor's fingerprints were all over the scene, too as the Gaels held strong against an onslaught from Derrygonnelly to march through to the final, where they will face Slaughtneil.
Three goals in four minutes in the closing stages of the first half – and a fourth just 40 seconds after the restart – saw the Gaels, who had trailled by four after 20 minutes, ease into a six-point lead.
But the Fermanagh champions rallied well and led by a point six minutes into injury time, only for Fortune to pounce on Seanie Johnston’s point attempt and smash home from close range.
It looked bad for the Gaels at one stage but this side, who haven't lost a match all season, dug deep once again.
When the sides clashed a week earlier, there wasn’t a single goal chance in normal or extra time in what was a dour dogfight. This clash couldn’t have been more different – it was pulsating from the off and the losers played their part.
They will, however, rue an inability to deal with high ball into the square, with Paul O’Connor – first cousin of Mayo’s Cillian and Diarmuid – capitalising with a hat-trick.
After a tentative opening, Derrygonnelly hit the front when Paul Ward goaled after 20 minutes and points from Gary McKenna and a huge score from Declan Cassidy saw them pull 1-5 to 0-4 ahead.
But then came the goals. Cavan Gaels had bagged 33 in 19 games this season before this match and repeated the trick when Martin Dunne twice found O’Connor, who rose to flick home for both, before Johnston got on the end of a good move to bury the third.
Derrygonnelly replied through McKenna and Ryan Jones to go in behind by 3-5 to 1-8 but when a Dunne shot dropped short and O’Connor again palmed in, 30 seconds into the second half, that seemed to be that as the Gaels led by 4-5 to 1-9.
Derrygonnelly dominated the second half, however, and a handful of McKenna frees along with a magnificent Conall Jones goal and two terrific points from Paul Ward saw them seize back the initiative.
Darragh Sexton kept Cavan Gaels in touch with their only point of the half but after spurning two more goal chances, they finally sealed their place in the final with Fortune’s late, late strike.
Cavan Gaels: C Flynn, L Fortune, N Muray, K Meehan (0-2), S Murray, B Fortune(1-0), D Sexton (0-1), P Graham, R Maloney-Derham, N Smith, D Meehan, A Graham, P O’Connor (3-0), S Johnston (1-4, 2f), M Dunne
Subs: V Coyle for D Meehan (25 mins, inj.), M Lyng for A Graham (50), E Fortune for P Graham (56)
Derrygonnelly: D Feely, Shane McGullion, D Greene, M Jones (0-1), N Gallagher, E McHugh, G McGinley, R Jones (0-1), G Jones, K Cassidy (0-2), P Ward (1-2), D Cassidy (0-2), G McKenna(0-5, 4f) Stephen McGullion(1-0), C Jones (1-0)
Subs: J Kelly for Feely (31, inj.), L Jones for McGinley (45), A Gallagher for Gallagher (53), McGinley for Stephen McGullion (56)
Ref: S Laverty (Antrim)