GAA Football

Cavan Gaels end 40-year wait for Ulster club final appearance

Barry Fortune celebrates his winning goal for Cavan Gaels Picture by Seamus Loughran
From John P Graham in Clones

AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final: Cavan Gaels (Cavan) 5-7 Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) 2-15

CAVAN Gaels are through to the final of the Ulster Club Senior Football Championship for the first time in 40 years as they edged past Derrygonnelly by the minimum margin in their replayed semi-final in Clones yesterday.

Played at a cracking pace throughout, this was a pulsating encounter that went right down to the wire with the Cavan champions snatching the narrowest of victories with a goal six minutes into stoppage time to break Derrygonnelly hearts after the Fermanagh side had battled back twice in the closing stages to take the lead.

Goals cost Derrygonnelly dearly in this cliff-hanger as they conceded three inside four minutes in the closing stages of the first half, and then conceded a fourth within a minute of the restart.

That left them facing a six-point deficit but they showed great character to recover, and by the 22nd minute of the second half they had battled back to parity. A goal by Conal Jones central to their recovery with the game balanced on a knife edge from there to the finish – but they would be caught at the death.

Cavan Gaels opened the scoring with a point by Kevin Meehan in the opening minute with Derrygonnelly then going ahead thanks to Paul Ward and Kevin Cassidy.

Seanie Johnston, who adopted or roving role for most of this game, equalised for Cavan Gaels with Michael Jones then putting Derrygonnelly in front in the ninth minute.

Points by Johnston and Kevin Meehan had the Cavan champions a point in front entering the second quarter but the Harps then struck a rich vein of form to register 1-2 inside three minutes.

The goal came from Paul Ward following good work by Ryan Jones and the points were scored by Gary McKenna, a free, and Declan Cassidy.

By the half hour though, Cavan Gaels had turned the game on its head with that three-goal burst.

Paul O’Connor grabbed the first two and Seanie Johnston, with the coolest of finishes, grabbed another to put the Gaels five points in front, but by the short whistle Derrygonnelly had pulled back two points through Gary McKenna and Ryan Jones to leave the half-time score Cavan Gaels 3-5 Derrygonnelly 1-8.

Within 40 seconds of the restart O’Connor had completed his hat-trick when he got the vital touch on the post but play was held up for some five minutes due to an injury to Derrygonnelly goalkeeper Dermot Feely, who had to be replaced.

That put the Cavan men six points in front but by the start of the final quarter Derrygonnelly had the margin back to the minimum with two points from frees by McKenna and a cracking goal by Conal Jones.

Darragh Sexton edged Cavan Gaels two clear but with eight minutes of normal time remaining, the sides were level with points apiece by Declan Cassidy and Paul Ward for the Ernemen.

The final minute of normal time saw Seanie Johnston restore Cavan Gaels’ lead but back came Derrygonnelly to re-take the lead with points by Kevin Cassidy and an excellent effort from distance by Ryan Jones.

The drama though wasn’t over with Cavan Gaels then taking the lead six minutes into stoppage time when Barry Fortune bundled the ball over the line in a goalmouth scramble.

The best the Fermanagh champions could manage was to reduce the deficit to the minimum in the 38th minute when Gary McKenna converted a free, but they couldn’t find an equaliser.

Cavan Gaels: C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan (0-2); S Murray, B Fortune (1-0), D Sexton (0-1); P Graham, R Maloney Derham; N Smith, D Meehan, A Graham; P O'Connor (3-0), S Johnston (1-4, 0-2fs), M Dunne. Subs: V Coyle for D Meehan (12), M Lyng for A Graham (50), E Fortune for P Graham (56)

Derrygonnelly Harps: D Feely; S McGullion, D Greene, M Jones (0-1); N Gallagher, E McHugh, G McGinley; R Jones (0-2), G Jones; K Cassidy (0-3), P Ward (1-2), D Cassidy (0-2); G McKenna (0-5, 0-4fs), S McGullion, C Jones (1-0). Subs: J Kelly for D Feely (32), L Jones for G McGinley (45), A Gallagher for N Gallagher (52), G McGinley for S McGullion

Referee: S Laverty (Antrim)

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