Ulster SFC: Donegal too strong for Breffni boys

May 13, 2018

Donegal's Ryan McHugh and Niall Murray of Cavan.
©INPHO/Evan Logan.

At times Donegal looked irresistible as they inflicted a 2-20 to 1-15 defeat on Cavan in this preliminary-round provincial clash at Ballybofey.

Ryan McHugh and substitute Cian Mulligan netted in either half for Declan Bonner's charges, who will square up to neighbours Derry at the quarter-final stage in a fortnight, while Cavan must now prepare for a first-round Qualifier on the second weekend of June.

A run of 1-6 without reply between the 16th and 28th minutes helped the hosts to a 1-10 to 1-6 interval lead, with McHugh fisting their opening three-pointer twelve minutes from the interval. All of the winners' first-half tally came from play.

Caomhin O'Reilly's free was brilliantly cancelled out by Ciaran Thompson on four minutes and O'Reilly stroked over his second free before midfielder Bryan Magee fired the visitors into an early two-point lead. Donegal were level by the eleventh minute courtesy of Michael Murphy and impressive centre forward Michael Langan.

There was a four-point swing when a Cavan goal chance was somehow snuffed out before Thompson knocked one over to edge the Tir Chonail men ahead for the first time, 0-4 to 0-3.

But the Breffni County briefly wrested back the lead when O'Reilly steered his shot into the top left corner of the net on 15 minutes following good work by Killian Clarke.

Donegal hit back and points from Langan and corner back Caolan Ward - off his left - had them level for the third time before Jamie Brennan registered their seventh point of the day. Raymond Galligan came off his line well and denied Patrick McBrearty from close range but - from the resultant '45' - goal-poacher supreme McHugh punched the ball to the net after Murphy's effort dropped short: 1-7 to 1-3 after 23 minutes.

Murphy, Langan and Thompson all added to their tallies as the winners brought their unanswered run of scores to 1-6. In between, Galligan got a huge hand to a McBrearty rasper to deny the attacker a second Donegal major.

But the visitors landed the last three scores before the break: four minutes from the short whistle, Gearoid McKiernan registered his side's first point in some 16 minutes and he chipped in with another to reduce the arrears to four after corner back Niall Murray had raided forward for a terrific point.

Murphy tapped over a brace of Donegal frees upon the restart to nudge the lead out to six and Leo McLoone got forward from midfield to register his team's 13th point before Murphy shrugged off his man to fire his fifth point, into the wind and over the bar - 1-14 to 1-6. Brennan nonchalantly made it five Donegal points in as many second-half minutes.

Another Murphy free pushed the lead out to an unassailable ten points and Cavan's response was a free from O'Reilly on 44 minutes, the Butlersbridge man immediately replaced by Martin O'Reilly as Mattie McGleenan reshuffled his deck.

Cavan dug in deep and halved the ten-point deficit down to five as Cian Mackey and McKiernan kept their hopes alive - 1-16 to 1-11 after 56 minutes. McBrearty had been having a quiet game but he exploded into the action with three of the next four points between the 60th and 64th minutes, the losers replying through another Mackey free.

Langan thought he had struck the home side's second goal two minutes from the end but his effort was ruled out and substitute Adrian Cole pointed at the other end, the deficit remaining at six nonetheless. However, substitute Mulligan planted an unstoppable low shot to the bottom corner of the Cavan net in the final minute - 2-19 to 1-13.

The mercurial McKiernan slotted his sixth and seventh with the game done and dusted; in between, McBrearty replied with his fourth - another fisted score. Donegal march on while Cavan showed enough quality in patches to suggest that their season is far from over.

Donegal - S Patton; E Ban Gallagher, N McGee, C Ward (0-1); S McMenamin, P Brennan, R McHugh (1-0); H McFadden, L McLoone (0-1); C Thompson (0-3), M Langan (0-3), F McGlynn; P McBrearty (0-4), M Murphy (0-6, 3f), J Brennan (0-2). Subs. C McGinley for C Thompson, E Doherty for S McMenamin, C Mulligan (1-0) for R McHugh, M McHugh for F McGlynn, S McBrearty for J Brennan.

Cavan - R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, N Murray (0-1); K Brady, C Brady, C Moynagh; K Clarke, B Magee (0-1); C Mackey (0-2f), O Kiernan, E Flanagan; C O'Reilly (1-3, 0-3f), G McKiernan (0-7, 2f), C Bradley. Subs. F Reilly for K Brady, N Clerkin for N Murray, A Cole (0-1) for B Magee, D McVeety for E Flanagan.

Referee - D Gough.

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