GAA Football

Ulster Senior Football Championship preliminary round - Donegal v Cavan analysis

Donegal's Jamie Brennan with Jason McLoughlin of Cavan during the Ulster Senior Football Championship preliminary round match at Ballybofey on Sunday Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran


Michael Murphy (Donegal) v Oisin Kiernan (Cavan)

NOT the easiest day Kiernan will have. Detailed to curb Murphy’s influence but didn’t seem sure exactly what to do with him as the Glenswilly man drifted here, there and everywhere in Ballybofey. Seemed pre-occupied with getting in Murphy’s face or trying to unsettle him at times, but had no bearing. Kiernan was eventually moved off into a sweeper position, which steadied the Cavan ship a bit.


THERE were little or no incidents of note in a fairly pedestrian affair, with none of the bite regularly associated with the Ulster Championship on show in Ballybofey. Therefore it was a handy enough afternoon for Meath whistler David Gough. Five yellow cards were shown in total, and a couple of minor off the ball incidents went unpunished.


DONEGAL got so many of their scores far too easy, breezing through the Cavan rearguard, but Michael Langan’s third point of a hugely impressive first half was the pick of the day’s action. Coming on to the ball about 45 yards out, he didn’t break stride before dropping a high, hanging, Maurice Fitzgerald-esque score between the posts.


BIZARRELY, it was Cavan’s goal. When Caoimhin O’Reilly rifled to the net 16 minutes in, the Breffnimen were 1-3 to 0-4 ahead and sitting pretty in Ballybofey. Unfortunately for Mattie McGleenan’s men, they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again for 15 minutes, by which stage they trailed 1-10 to 1-3 as Donegal found their flow. The Tir Chonaill men never looked back.




WHY would you play Michael Murphy inside when he can do more damage in the middle sector of the field? When he was being pushed out of certain moves, he was still leaving space for other runners to make hay. Donegal relied heavily on their well-rehearsed running game and, unlike Cavan, didn’t force the ball into their isolated inside forwards.

Some of their counter-attacking play was sublime and the swiftness with which they moved the ball between the hands was exceptional. Donegal showed they have a bit of everything. They have good defensive structure, bags of pace in their middle eight, two excellent inside forwards [McBrearty and Jamie Brennan] and Michael Murphy’s football brain. It all came together yesterday but, in truth, Cavan didn’t test their resolve.


THE Breffni men seemed to be preoccupied with man-marking Michael Murphy, and from an early stage it wasn't working out. Oisin Kiernan stuck close to the Glenswilly playmaker but it didn’t make any difference. Murphy still got on the ball and initiated umpteen Donegal attacks. The Cavan management team rightly dispensed with their man-marking approach before half-time, but the game was already slipping from their grasp by that stage. Cavan were also guilty of trying to find their inside forwards too readily and when they gained possession they had little support and many attacks petered out as a result. Defensively, Cavan had no answer to Donegal’s running game and looked all at sea in trying to stop them.

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