Oisin Gallen shows the art and Donegal the heart to see off battling Cavan in Breffni nail-biter

Jim McGuinness delighted as Tir Chonaill men hold on for one-point victory

Oisin Gallen checks the whareabouts of Niall Carolan as he looks for space. Photo: Adrian Donohoe.
Oisin Gallen checks the whareabouts of Niall Carolan as he looks for space. Picture Adrian Donohoe.

Allianz National Football League Division Two: Cavan 0-12 Donegal 0-13

OISIN Gallen provided the art as Donegal showed heart to take two valuable points against battling Cavan and stay hot on Armagh’s heels at the top of Division Two.

The Tir Chonaill men led by four points at the break and again midway through the second half but their hosts refused to throw in the towel and it took a backs-to-the-wall rearguard effort to send them back to the north-west with a one-point win that delighted Jim McGuinness.

“This is a tough place to come and we had a tough battle,” said the Donegal manager.

“Cavan put it up to us and asked a lot of questions, they were very physical, their kickout was working incredibly well in the first half – we couldn’t get our hands on the ball.

“That turned in the second half – we got five out of their 12 kickouts – and that made a big difference.”

Meanwhile, Cavan boss Raymond Galligan was bitterly disappointed. He can take positives from his first League loss but, crucially, no points.

“Overall it was a decent team performance with our defence in particular showing up well collectively,” said the Lacken Celtic clubman.

“Donegal came at us strong in the first half with the benefit of the wind but we came back at them well after half-time but we missed a number of opportunities to put them under more pressure earlier than we eventually did.”

Gallen was the major difference between the sides and he took a few steps before he curled the ball just inside the post to open the scoring after four minutes.

Cavan replied from the kick-out. Killian Clarke grabbed the ball in midfield and Padraig Faulkner broke forward from wing-back to apply the finish.

Paddy McBrearty top scored for Donegal in Sunday's season-opener against Down. Pic Philip Walsh.
Donegal skipper Paddy McBrearty led by example as Donegal fought for a one-point win

Paddy Lynch’s free edged the home side ahead but Donegal replied with an excellent score when Gallen showed for a kick pass and slipped in Paddy McBrearty who split the posts.

James Smith (mark) and McBrearty (free) swapped scores and another kick pass sent Gallen scurrying into the corner. He gave Killian Brady the slip and curled over his second point (this time off his left boot) to give Donegal a 4-3 lead after 20 minutes.

Faulkner and James Smith both missed chances allowing Donegal to pull away. Ciaran Thompson’s long-range strike was quickly followed by Gallen’s third score as they stretched their lead to three. Lynch pulled one back with a free but another score from the impressive Gallen – after Stephen McMenamin won a break in midfield – soon restored the deficit and McBrearty extended it with a free after Daire O Baoill bravely won Odhran Doherty’s ‘blue lamper’ and was taken down by Ryan O’Donohoe who was the third Cavan player to be booked in a very competitive half of football.

The home side went in trailing 0-8 to 0-4 but with the wind at their backs in the second half they were by no means out of it.

McVeety and Lynch halved the deficit and Patton had to get his trademark punch out as Crosserlough clubman Lynch tried his luck from distance. Killian Brady joined the attack and grabbed a long pass to slip in Arva All-Ireland winner Ciaran Brady who fisted the ball over the black spot to leave one in it.

Gallen eased Donegal nerves when he rode fouls from Killian Brady and McLoughlin to score his county’s first of the half and Jeaic McKelvey made it two in two minutes as Donegal’s running game began to click into gear.

McBrearty’s free – the decision drew howls of protest in the stand - meant the four-point advantage was restored and, after Caoimhin O’Reilly had replied for Cavan, Jamie Brennan was on the end of a lightning break to leave it 0-12 to 0-8 with 10 minutes left.

Another O’Reilly point kept Cavan within touching distance and the Breffni press forced a free for Lynch. James Smith swung over his second score to bring the home supporters to their feet as five additional minutes were signalled.

Donegal were under the proverbial pump but they cleverly kept the ball until the Cavan sweeper rushed forward to help close them down and then they broke up the left and won a free on the sideline. Gallen took it off the ground and the Donegal fans roared as it sailed over the bar.

They thought it was the insurance score and it was. Lynch managed a free but Donegal survived and hit the road for home with two more points in the bag.

Cavan: G O’Rourke, O Kiernan (Denn), K Brady, J McLoughlin, J Smith (0-2, 0-1 mark), N Carolan, P Faulkner (0-1), R Donohoe, K Clarke, C Brady (0-1), D McVeety (0-1), G Smith, P Lynch (0-5 frees), R O’Neill, T Madden

Subs: J Galligan for Donohoe (HT), R Brady for O’Neill (56), Caoimhin O’Reilly (0-2) for Madden (57), Cormac O’Reilly for Galligan (65), C Madden for Kiernan (71)

Blood sub: C O’Reilly for O’Neill (40-44), R Brady for Kiernan (53-56)

Yellow cards: McVeety (15), Clarke (25), O’Donohoe (35), Lynch (65)

Donegal: S Patton, E Bán Gallagher, B McCole, D Mac Giolla Bhríde, Ryan McHugh, C McGonagle, S McMenamin, C Thompson (0-1), D Ó Baoíll, R O’Donnell, O Doherty, S O’Donnell, P McBrearty (0-4, 0-3 frees), O Gallen (0-6, 0-3 frees), J Brennan (0-1)

Subs: M Curran for Gallagher (35), M Langan for R O’Donnell (HT), O Caulfield for S O’Donnell (HT), J McKelvey (0-1) for Giolla Bhríde (44), L McGlynn for Brennan (73)

Yellow card: McMenamin (27) McBrearty (43)

Black card: McGonagle (15)

Referee: S Lonergan (Tipperary)