Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 0°C
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# Shock
Underdogs Cavan stun Donegal to end 23 years of hurt in Ulster
Mickey Graham’s side won by four points in the Athletic Grounds.

Cavan 1-13

Donegal 0-12

Declan Bogue reports from the Athletic Grounds

A DAY THAT began under the most dramatic of circumstances went stratospheric in Armagh City on Sunday evening, when Cavan bridged a 23 year gap to their last Ulster title by beating champions Donegal.

It was the Breffni sides’ sixth game in six weeks and reversed a four point defeat to the same opposition in last year’s final.

A century on from Bloody Sunday, the same four teams have emerged out of their provinces; Dublin, Mayo, Cavan and Tipperary, the last two pretty much unbackable at the start of the day.

Cavan’s start was as determined as it was frantic and over the course of the first half they would have enjoyed more possession than the champions.

They had 14 shot attempts in the first half and jumped into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after the first ten minutes. James Smith, Oisin Pierson, Gerry Smith, Ciaran Brady and Conor Madden all finding their mark against a Donegal team who appeared off colour.

In response Michael Murphy got his first score from play in the Championship and Peader Mogan chalked up a point.

Cavan went down to 14 men in the 12th minute when Killian Brady was black carded for a challenge on Ryan McHugh coming out of defence. And for the next ten minutes, Donegal simply squeezed the life out of the Cavan kickout and outscored them 0-7 to 0-1 in this period.

Cavan’s challenge was slightly faltering, not helped by a lack of continuity with Conor Smith having to come off twice in the opening half as a blood sub.

Donegal went man for man and put Cavan’s restarts under severe pressure, Paddy McBrearty starting the comeback with two points in as many minutes and Niall O’Donnell adding the equaliser just before the water break.

Another scoring  burst took Donegal in ahead at the break, 0-9 to 0-7.

Cavan hinted they might be onto something with two half-chances at the start of the second half, and a clear gilt-edged chance came on 44 minutes when James Smith had a clear chance skite wide of Shaun Patton’s post.

Donegal spurned their own chances through Peader Mogan and Jamie Brennan, while the point scoring took the sides level.

It looked like they spurned the best chance when Martin Reilly got free of Neil McGee but Patton was equal to his drive on 69 minutes.

The goal when it came was so untidy, but will live forever in Cavan folklore. A heroic Thomas Galligan catch when goalkeeper Raymond Galligan was under severe pressure.

Galligan was injured in making the ‘mark’ so Gearoid McKiernan floated in the high ball. Uncharacteristically, Patton flapped at the ball, it fell kindly to Conor Madden who stuffed it into the net.

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Three more minutes passed, but Cavan held on. Remarkable. Stunning. Amazing.

Scorers for Cavan: C Madden 1-2, J Smith and O Kiernan 0-2 each, G McKiernan 0-2f, J McLoughlin, G Smith, C Brady, T Galligan, M Reilly 0-1 each 

Scorers for Donegal: P McBrearty 0-4, 2f, N O’Donnell and C McGonigle 0-2 each, R McHugh, P Mogan, M Langan, M Murphy 0-1 each.


1. Raymond Galligan

2. Jason McLoughlin
3. Padraig Faulkner
4. Luke Fortune

5. Gerard Smith
6. Killian Clarke
7. Ciaran Brady

8. Thomas Galligan
9. Killian Brady

10. Martin Reilly
11. Gearoid McKiernan
12. Oisin Kiernan

24. James Smith
14. Chris Conroy
29. Conor Smith


Conor Madden for C Smith (8-18m, blood sub, then 34m)
Niall Murray for Conroy (56m)
Stephen Smith for Reilly (73m)


1. Shaun Patton

2. Eoghan Ban Gallagher
3. Neil McGee
23. Brendan McCole

5. Ryan McHugh
6. Paul Brennan
4. Eoin McHugh

8. Hugh McFadden
9. Caolan McGonigle

7. Peadar Mogan
11. Niall O’Donnell
12. Michael Langan

13. Patrick McBrearty
14. Michael Murphy
15. Jamie Brennan


Andrew McClean for P Brennan (45m)
Dara ÓBaoill for E McHugh (56m)
Ciaran Thompson for McBrearty (57m)
Jason McGee for O’Donnell (69m)

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

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