By Alan Gunn
Geraldine McLaughlin pointed the way to the TG4 Ulster SFC final for Donegal as they kept their hopes of a third successive provincial crown alive following a rip roaring encounter in Killyclogher on Saturday evening.
The Termon star hit 14 points in all as Donegal turned around a five-point deficit to set up a repeat of last year’s final against Armagh.
Cavan looked set for a first final since 2016 but a Kate Keeney point brought the game to extra-time and buoyed by this Donegal kicked on to an impressive win.
The sides could not be separated at the break despite Donegal looking much the brighter side for long periods of a lively first-half. The opening exchanges were nip and tuck with the dangerous duo of Geraldine McLaughlin and Karen Guthrie between them registered Donegal’s five points to give them the lead by one.
For Cavan, Aisling Maguire (2), Ciara Finnegan and Donna English were all on target while both sides also saw goal chances go unclaimed with Finnegan and McLaughlin denied by good saves at each end.
Three unanswered points moved Donegal four clear but Cavan kept in touch with two Maguire frees before they hit the front on the 30th minute mark when a strong run from Aisling Sheridan created the opportunity, which was fired to the net by Finnegan. Donegal still had time to level matters through Amy Boyle Carr to leave it 0-9 to 1-6 at half-time.
It was an explosive start on the resumption with Aisling Sheridan winning the throw-in and running straight through the Donegal rearguard before she was fouled for a penalty that was expertly dispatched by Maguire, an offecnce that saw saw Donegal captain Guthrie sin binned.
They traded two points apiece while both Roisin Friel and Maguire were also sin binned before English put Cavan four clear on 44 minutes. Finnegan moved Cavan five in front but two points from Guthrie made it a three-point game with nine minutes remaining.
Cavan then had Rachael Doonan sin binned and from the resultant free McLaughlin fired over. English then became the fourth Cavan player sin binned with four of the six additional minutes remaining, but Guthrie reduced the deficit to the minimum before a super Kate Keeney point levelled the game and forced extra-time.
Seven points from McLaughlin in extra-time saw Donegal over the winning line despite having Nicole McLaughlin and Niamh Carr sin binned.
Donegal: G McLaughlin 0-14 (3f), K Guthrie 0-8 (7f), A Boyle Carr 0-1, K Keeney 0-1
Cavan: A Maguire 1-6 (5f, 1-0pen), C Finnegan 1-2 (1f), D English 0-3, E Longair 0-1, K McIntyre 0-1
Donegal: A McColgan; A.M. McGlynn, E Gallagher, N Boyle; N Carr, N McLaughlin, T Doherty; K Herron, E McGinley; K Guthrie, K Keeney, A Boyle Carr; R Freil, G McLaughlin, S McGroddy.
Subs: M Ryan for McGlynn (47), D Foley for Ryan (60), Ryan for McGroddy (70), S McLaughlin for Keeney (73), R Rogers for Friel (79), McGroddy for Boyle Carr (80).
Cavan: E Walsh; K McIntyre, R Doonan, S Reilly; S Greene, S Lynch, J Moore; S O’Sullivan, N Byrd; A Gilsenan, A Maguire, D English; C Finnegan, A Sheridan, L Fitzpatrick.
Subs: N Keeneghan for Gilsenan (24), M Sheridan for Moore (40), E Longair for English (60), English for Keeneghan (66), G Sheridan for O’Sullivan (79), A O’Reilly for Finnegan (79).
Referee: K McKeever (Armagh).
Photos by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile