Cadbury Ulster U21 Football Final:
Cavan 2-6 Donegal 0-8
Cavan extended their incredible domination of the Ulster U21 Football championship with a late rally securing a fourth provincial crown in a row at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night.
The Breffni County hit an unanswered 1-3 in the last four minutes to stun Donegal to progress to an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, which will take place in Portlaoise on April 19.
Points from cousins Ryan and Eoin McHugh had put Donegal ahead for the first time with five minutes remaining as they looked to be closing in on a first provincial crown since 2010.
However a great goal from midfielder Liam Buchanan in the 59th minute, followed by points from Michael Argue, Joe Dillon and Barry Fortune, saw Cavan extend their domination at this grade.
Swarm defences were on top in a low-scoring first half, with Cavan leading by 1-2 to 0-2 at the break. Cavan danger man Joe Dillon looked sharp and eluded his two markers in the 18th minute and stuck the ball in the back of the net.
He caught a ball over the top from Enda Flanagan and was composed enough to round the goalkeeper. Donegal forward Willie Gillespie scored the only point from play of a dour first half in the 20th minute, with Cavan struggling to convert from open play and hitting seven wides in the opening period.
Cavan captain Conor Moynagh received a black card from the referee, on the advice of an assistant referee, after an off the ball incident with Eoin McHugh in the 22nd minute. The scores were not any easier to come by in the second half, but Donegal were starting to win more possession around the middle and their confidence grew.
Donegal’s best hope of beating the blanket defence was to kick long-range points and midfielder Hugh McFadden landed one from around 47 metres, a rare point from play, in the 39th minute. Donegal hung on in the game and only trailed by a point, at 1-3 to 0-5 after 44 minutes, although they also kicked four wides in the third quarter.
With a great sense of timing, McBrearty scored his first point from play with a curling left-footed shot to level the scores with ten minutes remaining. It was the first time the sides had been level since the 18th minute. Cavan were chasing the game as the second half wore on with Donegal dominating possession.
Ryan McHugh’s long range point put Donegal ahead for the first time in the game with five minutes remaining and the game got more stretched as players tired.
His cousin Eoin McHugh then stretched Donegal’s lead to two points but Cavan’s midfielders snatched victory with Liam Buchanan breaking two tackles to drill the ball low into the net in the 59th minute.
Michael Argue followed it up with the insurance point a minute later, with Fortune and Dillon tagging on injury-time scores, as Cavan’s domination of the Ulster U21 provincial stretched to a fourth year.
Scorers for Cavan: J Dillon 1-1 (1f), L Buchanan 1-0, K Bouchier 0-3 (3f), M Argue, B Fortune 0-1 each
Scorers for Donegal: P McBrearty 0-4 (3f), R McHugh, W Gillespie, H McFadden, E McHugh 0-1 each
CAVAN: J Farrelly; B Fortune, K Clarke, P Faulkner; G Smith, C Moynagh, C Brady; L Buchanan, M Argue; P Graham, E Flanagan, A Watson; D McVetty, K Bouchier, J Dillon. Subs: A O’Hara for Moynagh (BC, 22), T Hayes for Bouchier (40), E Hession for Flanagan (47)
DONEGAL: J Coll; C Brennan, C Parke, A McCloskey; M O’Reilly, R McHugh, G Gallagher; H McFadden, C Thompson; D Mulgrew, P McBrearty, E Doherty; D O’Connor, W Gillespie, E McHugh. Subs: C Cannon for McCloskey (38), J O’Malley for Doherty (52)
Referee: Cathal O’Hagan (Tyrone)