Cavan left singing the blues again
Hot favourites Donegal led from gun to tape to prolong Cavan’s tale of woe in the Ulster SFC after an all too predictable final at St. Tighernach’s Park, Clones.
The bookies are seldom seen riding bicycles and, yet again, their decision to lay odds of 3/1 on a Cavan victory had a ring of Solomon. In simple terms, Mickey Graham’s men played a game of catch-up that they never looked like winning.
The Cavan boss pulled a rabbit out of the hat long before the blue and yellow clad Milford youth band had gotten the festivities underway in front of 28,780 fans.
Cavan’s entire full-forward line, as listed on the programme, of Cian Mackey, Thomas Galligan and Conor Madden was replaced by Ciarán Brady, Oisín Pierson and Gerard Smith respectively in a move viewed by many as a nod to a more defensive approach by the blues.
For their part, Donegal also re-arranged things before the throw-in with the unexpected introduction of Gaoth Dobhair clubman Odhrán McFadden Ferry into the centre-back berth for his senior debut in place of club colleague Daire Ó Baoill. Elsewhere, Niall O’Donnell was drafted in to replace Leo McLoone.
As the game took an age to come alight, the seventh minute booking of Neil McGee suggested that the early leaders were on edge but isn’t that the mode all champions-elect opt for as battle commences?
A McBrearty free after 48 seconds seemed to suggest that mentally and physically Donegal were in a good place. Eoin Ban Gallagher’s follow-up (5) put some beef on that perception.
Cavan wriggled off the starting blocks but high balls into Donegal’s kitchen were gobbled up by the twin towers of Neil McGee and Hugh McFadden in quick succession.
Donegal played with the breeze into the town end in the first half and gradually went up through the gears.
Conor Brady’s opener (6) for Cavan made it 0-1 to 0-2 but that’s the closest the underdogs got to draw blood. And when McGeen made it 0-5 to 0-1 by the 11th minute, the grey clouds above looked on the cusp of raining on Cavan’s parade in a big way.
Things got worse before they got better for Cavan as they fell 0-4 to 0-12 in arrears with 31 minutes on the clock with a Niall O’Donnell point coming just seven minutes after Conor Rehill fluffed his lines from close range when just five points (0-3 to 0-8) separated the sides.
Donegal continued to turn the screw; complementing their athleticism, cutting edge and cunning with a degree of football nous which manifested itself in Martin Reilly, Dara McVeety and Raymond Galligan all tasted the favourites’ cold steel.
Goals was the operative word for Cavan fans at half-time as their favourites went in at the break trailing by 0-5 to 0-13. The introduction of Cian Mackey and Conor Madden at the break seemed to be manager Graham’s first throw at the dice in trying to pull the fat from the fire.
True to form, Cavan refused to eye the white towel never mind throw it in and with the aforementioned McVeety beginning to show his true form, a 56th minute point from the Crosserlough man evoked the biggest cheer from the Cavan crowd all day and, more importantly, cut Donegal’s lead to a more manageable six points, 0-18 to 0-12.
It was death by a thousand cuts for Cavan. Paddy McBrearty and the quicksilver Jamie Brennan worked their magic in the last third to smother any chance of a Cavan comeback with textbook counter-attacking points.
Donegal continued to jab their way to victory with Michael Langan, Jason McGee and Oisín Gallen all eschewing good chances for goals and fisting the ball over the Cavan bar instead.
Cavan out-scored (13-12) Donegal in the second half but the words moral and victory could be heard as Jamie Brennan’s fly-kicked goal (58) made it 1-18 to 0-12 and left Cavan’s attempted comeback a still-birth.
The aforementioned Madden palmed home (64) Cian Mackey’s inviting fist pass to make it a six point game once more but much of the rain-soaked crowd had departed the scene by the time (75) Stephen Murray nipped in behind the advancing Donegal full-back line to flick the ball into the net off the inside of Shaun Patton’s left hand post.
Sadly for Cavan fans, the Fat Lady could be heard clearing her throat at that juncture in nearby Fermanagh Street.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan; Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Conor Moynagh (0-1); Martin Reilly, Killian Clarke, Conor Rehill; Conor Brady (0-1), Gearóid McKiernan (0-6, 3f); Oisín Kiernan, Dara McVeety (0-3), Niall Murray; Ciarán Brady, Oisín Pierson (0-1), Gerard Smith.
Subs: Stephen Murray (1-0) for N Murray (29); Cian Mackey (0-1, f) for O Kiernan (half-time); Conor Madden (1-1) for G Smith (half-time); Thomas Galligan for C Brady (50); Caoimhín O’Reilly (0-1) for O Pierson (54); Jack Brady (0-1) for C Rehill (70).
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh (0-1), Odhrán McFadden, Eoghan Bán Gallagher (0-1); Hugh McFadden (0-1), Jason McGee (0-2); Ciarán Thompson (0-2), Niall O’Donnell (0-1), Jamie Brennan (1-4); Patrick McBrearty (0-5, 1f), Michael Murphy (0-4, 3f), Michael Langan (0-1).
Subs; Daire Ó Baoill (0-1) for N O’Donnell (42); Frank McGlynn for N McGee (54); Paul Brennan for O McFadden Ferry (60); Oisín Gallen (0-1) for C Thompson (63); Leo McLoone for M Langan (70); Caolan Ward for S McMenamin (72).
Ref: Conor Lane (Cork)