Buchanan on mark as Cavan bag four in row
CAVAN 2-6 DONEGAL 0-8 Ulster U-21FC final
Cavan maintained their domination of this competition, finishing strong to secure their fourth title in a row at the Athletic Grounds.
The Breffni side hit an unanswered 1-3 in the last four minutes to progress to an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin. Points from cousins Ryan and Eoin McHugh put Donegal ahead for the first time with five minutes left.
But a goal from midfielder Liam Buchanan in the 59th minute, followed by points from Michael Argue, Joe Dillon and Barry Fortune, saw Cavan extend their domination.
Swarm defences were on top in a low-scoring first half, with Cavan leading by 1-2 to 0-2 at the break. Cavan kept Donegal star forward Paddy McBrearty starved of possession while at the other end, Cavan danger man Joe Dillon was double-marked by Conor Parke and Dara Mulgrew.
Kevin Bouchier opened the scoring with a second-minute free and McBrearty responded with a free after 11 minutes, after Ryan McHugh was fouled, to level the scores.
Dillon looked sharp and won a lot of ball but he frequently got bottled up by his two Donegal markers – until he eluded them once in the 18th minute and stuck the ball in the back of the net.
Cavan's best scoring chances were always on the counter-attack and when Donegal gave the ball away coming up the field, Enda Flanagan found Dillon with a superb pass which flew over the heads of Parke and Mulgrew.
Dillon was composed enough to round the goalkeeper, although he took a lot of steps before striking the ball into the roof of the net. Willie Gillespie scored the only point from play in a dour first half in the 20th minute, with Cavan struggling to convert from open play and hitting seven wides.
Cavan captain Conor Moynagh received a black card from the referee, on the advice of an assistant referee, after an off-the-ball incident with Eoin McHugh in the 22nd minute.
The scores were not any easier to come by in the second half. McBrearty converted a free for Donegal four minutes after the restart, which Bouchier soon cancelled out.
Donegal's best hope of beating the blanket defence was to kick long-range points and midfielder Hugh McFadden landed one from around 47 metres, a rare point from play, in the 39th minute.
Donegal trailed by a point, at 1-3 to 0-5 after 44 minutes, although they also kicked four wides in the third quarter.
McBrearty scored his first point from play with a curling left-footed shot to level the scores with 10 minutes left. It was the first time the sides had been level since the 18th minute.
Cavan were chasing the game as the second half wore on with Donegal dominating possession. Ryan McHugh's long-range point put Donegal ahead for the first time with five minutes left.
His cousin Eoin McHugh stretched Donegal's lead to two points but Cavan's midfielders snatched victory with Buchanan breaking two tackles to drill the ball into the net in the 59th minute.
Michael Argue followed it up with the insurance point a minute later as Cavan's domination of the Ulster U-21 provincial stretched to a fourth year.
Scorers – Cavan: J Dillon 1-1 (1f), L Buchanan 1-0, K Bouchier 0-3fs, M Argue, B Fortune 0-1 each. Donegal: P McBrearty 0-4 (3f), R McHugh, W Gillespie, H McFadden, E McHugh 0-1 each
CAVAN – J Farrelly; B Fortune, K Clarke, P Faulkner; G Smith, C Moynagh, C Brady; L Buchanan, M Argue; P Graham, E Flanagan, A Watson; D McVetty, K Bouchier, J Dillon. Subs: A O'Hara for Moynagh (BC, 22), T Hayes for Bouchier (40), E Hession for Flanagan (47).
DONEGAL – J Coll; C Brennan, C Parke, A McCloskey; M O'Reilly, R McHugh, G Gallagher; H McFadden, C Thompson; D Mulgrew, P McBrearty, E Doherty; D O'Connor, W Gillespie, E McHugh. Subs: C Cannon for McCloskey (38), J O'Malley for Doherty (52).
REF – C O'Hagan (Tyrone)