Where a more jaundiced eye might have noted inaccurate shooting and sloppy passing, the euphoric Breffni would surely point to defensive pressure and terrific team tackling as the cause of Donegal’s problems.
The rugged tackling could also be interpreted as pulling and dragging or as doing what has to be done to win important matches like Sunday’s Senior A tussle. And make no mistake, Cavan’s victory Sunday afternoon at Gaelic Park was big.
Cavan improved to 5-2 for 10 points, just one half game behind table toppers Stamford, while Donegal stumble to a mediocre 3-3.
The early going showed promise as John Paul Smith pointed a first-minute free to give Cavan the early lead. Donegal came right back at them with an excellent point from Damien McClafferty. The Donegal cornerback slipped forward while marking Cavan corner forward Alan Carolan, who was playing as a third midfielder.
McClafferty got on the end of an excellent pass from Fionnan Murray for the point. The sides exchanged points via Sean Maguire (Cavan) and Murray (Donegal), but the match was becoming bogged down with fouls. Donegal also lost two players to injury. McClafferty pulled up lame and had to be helped off with a leg injury and Philip Sloan followed, limping off shortly before the half.
Cavan took advantage of Donegal’s disjointed performance going to the half up 0-6 to 0-3 behind points from Andy McEvoy (2) and J.P. Smith.
The second half was more of the same with all the best performances coming on the defensive side of the ball. Fullback Derrick Smith and his corner men, Eugene O’Hagan and Nobby Smith (who also did well when switched to the wing), were tenacity itself, while Dave Callaghan was a class above at center back. Donegal fullback Nicky Doherty had Eddie Reilly under house arrest all day long but Cavan managed to earn enough frees for J.P. Smith to keep Donegal at arms reach.
On another day Liam England’s 15th-minute goal, off a great Murray long ball, might have sparked a Donegal comeback, but not today.
In fact, Donegal would not score again as Cavan finished with points from J.P. Smith and Alan Carolan en route to a beautiful victory.
Man of the Match: Dave Callaghan.
Cavan: Brian Carolan, Eugene O’Hagen, Derrick Rabbitte, Nobby Smith, Francie Brady, Dave Callaghan (0-1, free), Barry Annette, Shane Russell, Sean Maguire (0-1), John Smith, J.P. Smith (0-5, 4 frees), Danny Walsh, Alan Carolan (0-1), Eddie Reilly, Andy McEvoy (0-2). Subs: Declan Meara, Gary McDermott (0-1).
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Damien McClafferty (0-1), Nicky Doherty, Brian McDermott, Kieran Doyle, Philip Sloan, Gareth Kelly, Paul Higgins, Liam England (1-0), Leslie McGettigan, Paul Finely (0-1, free), Anton Diver, Liam Gallagher, Fionnan Murray (0-2, 1 free), Anthony Kelly. Subs: Jason McBride, Connie Molloy.