Cavan 2-15 Donegal 3-8
In a contest that went down to the wire, Cavan scored 1-3 in the closing minutes against the wind to ascertain the victory.
The lead changed hands four times, but it was Cavan who held it at the pivotal moment. The full forward pairing of Conor Harrison and Michael Ireland came up huge at crunch times, although it was Brian Thornton who hit the crucial goal that got the side level with minutes to go before brilliant points from Harrison, Ireland and John Comerford annexed the win.
The opening quarter of the first half was very even, with both sides hitting scores from distance. Cavan also had a brilliantly finished goal from Man of the Match Ireland to push them into the lead after seven minutes.
After Moore and Hallassy had back to back points for the winners Donegal were on level terms when Colm Devlin finished to the net when James Moynagh set him free. It was all Cavan from that point forward to the half whistle with Harrison, Ireland with two and Hallassy with a beauty surrounding a Pete McNellus score to push the Breffni boys into a 1-8 to 1-4 interval lead.
Donegal were pulling a man back with Michael Sloan going with him and to this point, Cavan were getting better results from it. Harry Silke was also doing well in the nets due to the absence of the injured Gavin Joyce.
The sides split four points to open the second half, with Richie Morgan involved in both the Cavan scores. The second was from play but an Armagh teammate was booked for his late rash challenge on the lively forward.
Donegal attempted to break the game open in the early going with Brendan Quigley having his best game in the northern colors. He was carrying the ball effectively and setting up teammates with good feeds constantly.
Conor Lynam struck for a goal eight minutes in when Joe Bell was the supplier. Bell himself had goal number three when Quigley set him free, a cracker from the right side that Silke was powerless to stop. After a Morgan score, Donegal added two further scores, the first a towering Moynagh point, and the second a McNellus effort that gave the side a 3-8 to 1-11 lead with 15 minutes left.
Alarmingly that was their final action on the scoreboard as the Cavan defense clamped down. Ciaran Shields and Conor Hogan both had important stops, with Silke also clearing two balls from the goal area.
With 10 minutes left Ireland started the recovery with an outstanding score from distance. After a battling period at both ends with the defenses winning, Cavan moved the ball forward with Ireland, Comerford and Harrison involved before Thornton drove to the net. As time wound down, three points were added for the win.
Cavan now have three points from three games. Ciaran Shields came into the game in the second half, Conor Hogan also, while Michael Hallassy was dominant especially when in the six slot.
Midfield was a distant second for long periods. They still need to show what they have. Richie Morgan was in the wars. He was downed by a Ken O’Connor shot and a James Moynagh shot; both were given yellows but Morgan kept ticking and kicked three points. Impressive in his passing also.
Ireland and Harrison were outstanding, especially when the chips were down. Both can shoot from long range or be providers.
Donegal are winless after three but had a more complete game. Mike Clarke, Paul McGinley and Steve Duffy all had quality moments at the back. Brendan Quigley had his best game thus far. A lot of good ball carrying and distribution.
Conor Lynam needs the ball. When he has it good things happen for Donegal. Center forward has him a little far from the posts, but no point having him inside with no service.
Joe Bell and Peter McNellus both had passages when they contributed, while Ken O’Connor was coming into the game when he was taken off. He had set up a number of plays off high balls in his direction.
Donegal: 1 Brian Cuilinan, 2 Mike Clarke, 3 Dan Jackson, 4 Donnacha O’Dwyer, 5 Steve Duffy, 6 Dan Geraghty, 7 Paul McGinley, 8 Shane Murrin, 9 Brendan Quigley, 10 Colm Devlin (1-0), 11 Conor Lynam (1-5), 12 Joe Bell (1-0), 13 Peter McNellus (0-2), 14 Kenny O’Connor, 15 James Moynagh (0-1). Subs: Ciaran Slattery, Tom Moran, Mickey Annette.
Cavan: 1 Harry Silke, 2 Shane Hogan, 3 Ciaran Shields, 4 Michael Sloan, 5 Conor Hogan, 6 Michael Hallassy (0-2), 7 Liam Fleming, 8 John Comerford (0-1), 9 Conor Sheridan, 10 Richie Morgan (0-3), 11 Brian Thornton (1-0), 12 Fergal Ellis, 13 Darren Moore (0-1), 14 Michael Ireland (1-4), 15 Conor Harrison (0-4).
Man of the Match: Michael Ireland (Cavan).
Referee: Sean Jones.