Donegal show young Cavan how far they've to go


ULSTER SFC PRELIMINARY ROUND: Donegal 1-16 Cavan 1-10:IF THE keynote reaction of Donegal to the win over Antrim a year ago was wary relief, this was more business like. The provincial champions did what they had to do to progress but still managed to compile a file of items for improvement to give manager Jim McGuinness something to work on in the month before the quarter-final date with Derry.

Cavan came into the match hoping to put the anarchy of recent times behind them. Manager Terry Hyland, assistant to Val Andrews who stepped down after a disappointing league put his trust in youth. Before the throw-in teenagers Killian Clarke and Jason McLoughlin replaced the originally selected John McCutcheon and Niall Smith.

As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery McGuinness must have been blushing, as Cavan set up à la mode Donegal with multiple switches to starting line-up, a couple of forwards up front, and the customary heaving mass of humanity chasing around the middle terrain.

Declan Walsh started instead of Martin McElhinney for Donegal in what was a tactical rather than injury-enforced switch. They also had to get by without injured captain Michael Murphy, one of football’s most conspicuous talents.

The problem for the home side was they are only learning the system their opponents have stress tested for well over a year. Although they swarmed forward and picking off scores to lead by 0-3 to 0-1 after seven minutes, their ability to stymie Donegal’s relentless support play and break effectively when possession was regained began to dwindle.

For all of the distaste the champions’ tactics provoke the qualities of Donegal’s approach are sometimes forgotten. Their players are versatile and indefatigable, tracking backwards and forwards, forcing turnovers and sweeping through the middle to set up scoring platforms, their exploitation of which was so accomplished yesterday every one of their – albeit notional – starting lines managed to score from play.

As well as that their centrefield was conventionally on top, with captain Rory Kavanagh, recipient of a presentation to mark his 100th appearance for the county – a milestone he celebrated with three points from play, and Neil Gallagher running the show, although Cavan’s challenge eventually picked up in the sector.

From the 20th minute on, Donegal began to pull remorselessly away – a free from McFadden, a point from Kavanagh and another from Leo McLoone, hurtling through on to a pass to finish.

Had Cavan got to half-time just a score behind they might have proved more resilient but Clarke took down Patrick McBrearty in the 31st minute and McFadden drilled the penalty to the net.

A six-point deficit, 0-4 to 1-7, must have been disheartening for the home side and Hyland acknowledged it forced him to go chasing the match earlier than intended. They had been a little unlucky in Brendan Fitzpatrick twice hitting the woodwork, in the early minutes when his curling shot initially looked goal-bound and just before the interval when an attempt at a point came back off the post.

The match was effectively finished and became far looser with both sides getting clear chances with far greater ease. Again Cavan’s inexperience came against them and their wides count was almost three times Donegal’s.

Gearóid McKiernan, just back from injury, did come strongly into it in the second half at centrefield and helped set up attacks and scored a point. Full forward Eugene Keating finished with five from play – he also got pulled down for a penalty – but there was never a sense they were getting a run on Donegal.

DONEGAL:P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee (0-1), F McGlynn (0-1); A Thompson, K Lacey, Declan Walsh; R Kavanagh (0-3), N Gallagher (0-1); R Bradley, David Walsh, M McHugh (0-2); L McLoone (0-2), C McFadden (1-6, 1-0 penalty, 0-5 frees), P McBrearty. Subs: M O’Reilly for Bradley (24 mins), M McElhinney for David Walsh (66 mins), D Molloy for Gallagher (69 mins). Yellow cards: Kavanagh (39 mins), David Walsh (51 mins).

CAVAN:J Reilly; K Clarke, P O’Reilly (capt), K Meehan; J McLoughlin, D Reilly, M McKeever; D Givney (0-2), G McKiernan (0-1); F Flanagan, R Flanagan, R Moloney-Derham; J Brady (0-1), E Keating (0-5), B Fitzpatrick. Subs: T Corr for Maloney-Derham (half-time), N McDermott (1-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1 free) for Fitzpatrick (half-time), N Smith for F Flanagan (39 mins), K Tierney for McKeever (57 mins), R Galligan for Brady (66 mins). Yellow cards: Brady (25 mins), Clarke (31 mins).

Referee:C Reilly (Meath).


POST-MATCH TALK: ON a routine afternoon with the established power of Ulster champions Donegal proving too much for a young Cavan side there was one detail to distinguish the occasion, writes Seán Moran.

Donegal captain Rory Kavanagh lined out in his 100th match for the county, just short of the 10th anniversary of his first championship appearance, as a replacement against Down in Ballybofey.

“We had to go out and win the game and we did that,” he said afterwards. “We’ll have Michael Murphy back the next day and that will be a big plus too. It certainly wasn’t a classic but it’s good to be able to go away and work on things now.

“They kicked a few wonder scores which there’s not much you can do about but we got turned over too many times and that’s an aspect Jim won’t be happy with.”

Manager Jim McGuinness confirmed as much.

“That’s a fair enough point. Rory knows what we’re working on and I know what we’re working on and we know that things we spoke about weren’t executed to the level we’d have liked.

“Some of them mightn’t have seemed important to people looking on but if you’re working on things you’re working on things.”

What things?

“There were a lot of things in the second half: we weren’t ruthless, 20 minutes out there was a feel of a challenge match for a few minutes before Cavan came back into it and we were ponderous on the ball and had opportunities to do things but weren’t clinical enough on the ball.”

He pointed out though that managers like having things to improve on before the next match – although maybe not quite as many as Terry Hyland will be trying to address.

“It has been a learning curve,” he said. “Our shot selection was a little bit off and our decision making but that comes with experience.”