Donegal hold on for one-point win

NFL Division 2 round 2

Donegal 0-13

Cavan 0-12

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Donegal held on for a hard-earned one-point win over Cavan after a close encounter at a blustery Kingspan Breffni.

Jim McGuinness’s side were four up with 10 minutes to go but had to endure a nervy finale as Cavan came up with three points in succession. The outstanding Oisin Gallen nailed a free from a difficult angle only for Cavan to pull back another; they gambled and pressed very high late on but Donegal won possession – and the game.

Both sides came in buoyed by first-round wins, although the form of those wasn’t exactly boosted as both Kildare and Cork, whom Cavan and Donegal had beaten respectively in round one, had slipped to defeats by the time this one threw in.

Cavan started well but as the first half wore on, Donegal slowly but surely began to assert control, with Oisin Gallen by far the most dangerous forward on the pitch and by half-time they had built up a wind-assisted 0-8 to 0-4 lead.

Fit-again Gallen, who was elusive and accurate throughout, opened the scoring but Cavan levelled when debutant Gary O’Rourke went long with a kick-out and joint-captain Padraig Faulkner pointed.

Faulkner was involved in Cavan’s next score, with Dara McVeety winning a free for Paddy Lynch to convert but Donegal soon hit back when captain Paddy McBrearty swung over a beauty from distance.

James Smith (mark) and McBrearty, with a 45-metre free, traded scores but when Gallen danced through for another quality point, Donegal had established a lead which they would not subsequently relinquish.

A lovely score from Ciaran Thompson and a 48-metre Gallen effort made it double scores. Paddy Lynch stopped the bleeding with a badly-needed free but another tremendous effort from Gallen and a McBrearty free saw the visitors in good shape at the midway point.

Cavan, aided by the breeze now, started the second half with intent, Dara McVeety nailing a mark and Lynch curling over a 45-metre free, and when Ciaran Brady drove through and fisted over, it was a one-point game again 10 minutes into the second half.

Donegal’s response was exemplary, however, as they kicked for home. Gallen darted through the centre to score, Jeaic McKelvey fired over with the outside of the boot and McBrearty added a free to make it 0-11 to 0-7 with 16 minutes remaining.

Cavan, though, came again. Sub Caoimhin O’Reilly did well to gather possession and squeeze over and although Jamie Brennan fisted a point after another monster Patton restart, O’Reilly converted a free from the right touchline, Lynch converted another and when James Smith threaded one from long range, it was back to the minimum again.

Enter, stage left, Gallen once more. He curled over an exquisite free off the deck and although Cavan poured forward and were rewarded with a Lynch free, Donegal managed to weather the storm and held on to win by the minimum.

Cavan: Gary O’Rourke, Oisin Kiernan (Denn), Killian Brady, Jason McLoughlin, James Smith (0-2, 1m), Niall Carolan, Padraig Faulkner (0-1), Ryan Donohoe, Killian Clarke, Ciaran Brady (0-1), Dara McVeety (0-1m), Gerard Smith, Paddy Lynch (0-5f), Ryan O’Neill, Tiarnan Madden

Subs: James Galligan for R Donohoe (ht), Caoimhin O’Reilly (0-2, 1f) for R O’Neill (temp, 40, reversed 43), Ryan Brady for O Kiernan (temp, 53, reversed 57), R Brady for R O’Neill (57), Caoimhin O’Reilly for T Madden (58), Cormac O’Reilly for J Galligan (66), Cian Madden for O Kiernan (70)

Donegal: Shaun Patton, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Brendan McCole, Domhnall Mac Giolla Bhríde, Ryan McHugh, Caolán McGonagle, Stephen McMenamin, Ciaran Thompson (0-1), Daire Ó Baoíll, Rory O’Donnell, Odhran Doherty, Shane O’Donnell, Patrick McBrearty (0-4, 3f), Oisin Gallen (0-6, 4f), Jamie Brennan (0-1)

Subs: Mark Curran for EB Gallagher (35), Oisin Caulfield for S O’Donnell, Michael Langan for R O’Donnell (both ht), Jeaic McKelvey (0-1) for Mac Giolla Bhríde (43), Luke McGlynn for J Brennan (70)