Managerial maestro Mickey Graham weaved his magic once again as Cavan captured the Anglo Celt Cup and Ulster Championship glory for the 40th occasion and the first time since 1997 with a superb 1-13 to 0-12 win over hot favourites Donegal in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh today.
In his second season as the Cavan manager, Graham was one of the stars of the last team from the county to win an Ulster title and today's triumph for his native county comes two years after he guided Longford champions Mullinalaghta St Columba's to a historic Leinster Club SFC title.
Ultimately, it was an injury time goal from Gowna's Conor Madden which sealed a famous Cavan victory and denied Declan Bonner’s Donegal side a third successive provincial crown.
Donegal started without the influential Ciaran Thompson with Brendan McCole drafted in for his first championship start. Cavan had two changes with James and Conor Smith for Oisin Pierson and Conor Madden.
Just like the opening championship game against Tyrone, Donegal were slow out of the blocks. Patrick McBrearty had a great chance to open the scoring but dropped his effort short.
James Smith put Cavan on the board but after a good kick-out Niall O’Donnell set up Peadar Mogan for the equaliser.
Then Cavan took a three point lead thanks to good points from Oisin Kiernan, Gerard Smith and Ciaran Brady.
Caolan McGonagle won a kick-out for Michael Murphy to score but Conor Madden, on as a blood sub, made it 0-5 to 0-2.
Cavan lost Killian Brady for 10 minutes for a black card and Donegal took advantage and by the water break, they were on terms with two from Patrick McBrarty and a good point from Niall O’Donnell after good approach work from McGonagle and O’Donnell.
Ryan McHugh and Caolan McGonagle pushed Donegal two ahead by the 18th minute and while Jason McLoughlin came forward to hallve the lead, a Michael Murphy turnover saw Patrick McBrearty in acres of space in the Cavan half and he set up Niall O’Donnell to point.
But Cavan were defending with plenty of energy. Donegal did have a goal chance on 21 minutes when Hugh McFadden found his clubmate Eoghan Bán Gallagher thundering through the middle but Raymond Galligan made a good stop to deny the Killybegs man.
Cavan had a point from a Gearoid McKiernan free on 28 minutes and the big centre-forward should have had another as referee Barry Cassidy failed to give him a mark with minutes left and the Cavan players let him know about it at the break.
Half-time: Donegal 0-9, Cavan 0-7.
Patrick McBrearty had the opening score of the second half after Michael Langan was fouled but Cavan replied through Thomas Galligan.
Cavan created a good goal chance when Ciaran Brady found James Smith in space but he pulled his effort just inches wide of Shaun Patton’s post.
However, he made up for the mistake two minutes later by cutting the lead to just one point. Neil McGee drove forward to win a free for Patrick McBrearty to point on 49 minutes.
But Cavan would not give up and a great point from distance by Conor Madden left just a point in it at the water break - Donegal 0-11, Cavan 0-10.
Cavan lost Conor Madden to a black card but they came forward to win a sideline and Martin Reilly worked a one-two to level matters.
Gearoid McKiernan then edged them ahead from a free with eight minutes of normal time left.
Donegal created a great goal chance but Jamie Brennan’s shot was too close to Galligan but in a follow up more Caolan McGonagle levelled matters once more.
Oisin Kiernan landed a mighty score from close to the sideline with five minutes left.
Martin Reilly got in behind the Donegal defence and probably should have taken a point but went for goal and Shaun Patton saved.
But Cavan were well and truly in command as the game entered added time. A long free was palmed out by Shaun Patton straight to Conor Madden to rifle home and a four point lead.
It means Cavan progress to an All-Ireland semi-final where they will meet Dublin.
In the other semi-final, newly crowned Munster champions Tipperary will play Mayo.
The same counties won the provincial titles in 1920 and it was Tipp that emerged as champions!
Cavan: R Galligan; J McLoughlin (0-01), P Faulkner, L Fortune; G Smith (0-01), K Clarke, C Brady (0-01); J Smith (0-02), K Brady; M Reilly (0-01), G McKiernan (0-02, 2f), O Kiernan (0-02); C Conroy, T Galligan (0-01), C Smith.
Subs: C Madden (1-02) for C Smith (blood 7-15), for T Galligan (blood 27-33), for C Smith (35+1), N Murray for Conroy (56), C Smith for Reilly (73)
Donegal: S Patton; E Ban Gallagher, N McGee, B McCole; R McHugh (0-01), P Brennan, P Mogan (0-01); H McFadden, C McGonagle (0-02); E McHugh, N O’Donnell (0-02), M Langan (0-01); P McBrearty (0-04, 2f), M Murphy (0-01), J Brennan
Subs: A McClean for P Brennan (45), D O Baoill for E McHugh (56), C Thompson for McBrearty (58), J McGee for O’Donnell (69)
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)
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