There may have been only five points between the sides in the end, but Donegal were vastly superior to Cavan as they retained the Anglo-Celt Cup in impressive fashion at St Tiernach's Park.
In capturing their fifth Ulster SFC title this decade and 10th in all before a crowd of 28,780, the Tir Chonaill men dominated from start to finish and the game had long ended as a contest before substitutes Conor Madden and Jack Brady managed late goals for Cavan. Jamie Brennan, who helped himself to 1-4, Paddy McBrearty, Ryan McHugh and Michael Murphy were excellent for the winners who dictated the terms throughout and led by 0-13 to 0-5 at the break.
Appearing in their first provincial final in 18 years, Mickey Graham's Cavan brought a huge crowd and massive excitement to Clones, but they couldn't live with Donegal's experience or their ability to break out of defence at pace. The ease with which Declan Bonner's men cut through the Cavan defence was alarming and the losers were fortunate that they were in the sort of the mood where they were happy just to take their points.
Donegal captain Michael Murphy lifts the Anglo-Celt Cup. ©INPHO/James Crombie.
With McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ciaran Thompson relentlessly running at the Cavan defence, it didn't take the winners long to get into the groove. They had eased into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead before Conor Moynagh halved the deficit with an excellent point. Brennan, who kicked three first half points, and corner back Paddy McGrath both missed Donegal goal chances, but so too did Cavan wing back Conor Rehill in the 26th minute when he fired to the right and wide.
Donegal immediately countered to increase their lead to 0-9 to 0-3 through Jason McGee. Two poor kickouts by Cavan ‘keeper Raymond Galligan were punished by points from Ciaran Thompson and Jamie Brennan as the holders continued to dominate.
Oisin Pierson and Niall O’Donnell traded points before Cavan midfielder Gearoid McKiernan slotted over his second from a 30-metre free which had been brought forward for dissent. But Donegal took an eight-point buffer into the break thanks to Brennan’s third point after Dara McVeety had been bottled up by a ravenous Donegal defence at the other end. The winners had no fewer than eight different scorers in the opening half as they converted 13 scores from 23 chances.
Donegal increased their advantage on the restart, but the Breffni Blues kept plugging away and were rewarded with a trio of points from McVeety and McKiernan. However, the lively Brennan put the game beyond them once and for all with the opening goal in the 58th minute.
Cavan cut the gap to six points, 1-13 to 1-19, five minutes later when Cian Mackey teed up fellow sub Conor Madden for a palmed goal. Donegal, as they always seemed capable of doing, replied with quick points from sub Oisin Gallen and Brennan before Madden and Jack Brady got two back for the challengers.
Stephen Murray flicked home a second Cavan goal from a long ball in the fifth minute of injury-time before Donegal captain Michael Murphy decorated another commanding display with his fourth point and third from a free with the last kick of the game.
Donegal - S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, S McMenamin; R McHugh (0-1), O McFadden Ferry, E Ban Gallagher (0-1); H McFadden (0-1), J McGee (0-2); C Thompson (0-2), N O'Donnell (0-1), J Brennan (1-4); P McBrearty (0-5, 1f), M Murphy (0-4, 2f), M Langan (0-1). Subs: D O Baoill (0-1) for N O’Donnell, F McGlynn for N McGee, P Brennan for O McFadden Ferry, O Gallen (0-1) for C Thompson, L McLoone for M Langan, C Ward for S McMenamin.
Cavan - R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, C Moynagh (0-1); M Reilly, K Clarke, C Rehill; Conor Brady (0-1), G McKiernan (0-6, 2f); O Kiernan, D McVeety (0-3), N Murray; Ciaran Brady, O Pierson (0-1), G Smith. Subs: S Murray (1-0) for N Murray, C Mackey (0-1f) for O Kiernan, C Madden (1-1) for G Smith, T Galligan for Conor Brady, C Reilly (0-1) for O Pierson, J Brady (0-1) for C Rehill.
Referee - C Lane.Tweet