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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paddy Tierney

Cavan players will commit to Tailteann Cup insists Breffni boss Mickey Graham

They came to Clones determined to upset the odds and claim a place in the Ulster Final at Donegal’s expense. Instead, Cavan now await a summer of uncertainty after being condemned to the Tailteann Cup following a 2-16 to 0-16 defeat.

The Breffnimen played their part in what was the most entertaining game of the Ulster Championship thus far.

With 57 minutes played, they were neck-and-neck with Declan Bonner’s side at 0-14 each.

Read more: Cavan vs Donegal: Player ratings from Sunday's Ulster SFC semi-final clash

Two lapses in defence proved fatal to Cavan’s cause with goals from Conor O’Donnell and Paddy McBrearty providing the knock-out blows.

Crestfallen, Mickey Graham admitted the defeat would be tough to take, but vowed that Cavan will give their all in the Tailteann Cup, despite some concerns regarding its promotion.

“The boys we have in there are committed to the Cavan jersey. They aren’t in this for the Championship and for the big days,” stated Graham.

“They’ve had a lot of dark days and still keep coming back. No doubt the players will fully buy into it.

“The message will be. . . we’ll dust ourselves down. The more games we get, the more we’ll develop and that’s the way I’d like to think the players will look upon it.

“We’ve a lot of young lads within the squad and we might give them more game time during this competition as well.

“This is fresh in our minds now and we’ll take a few days to let the dust settle and we’ll see what the mindset is towards it.”

Graham felt Cavan were left to rue their missed chances at goal early on while Donegal were ruthless with their opportunities late in the second half.

Gearóid McKiernan had claims for a penalty turned down in the opening minutes while James Smith had his shot tipped on to the crossbar by Shaun Patton.

“I thought we brought a serious level of intensity in the first half,” reflected Graham.

“We played very well and we were exactly where we wanted to be at half-time, although we could have been a goal up.

“We hit the crossbar and Cormac O’Reilly had a great chance in the first minute of the game. “We didn’t take them and Donegal took their chances. . . goals win games as the old cliché goes.

“I felt coming in, before they got the goals, we were right there. A goal was going to be a big score and, the two high balls in, we didn’t deal with them.

“Donegal took their opportunities and fair play to them.

“We knew that Donegal were going to come at us and we said we wanted to be right in the game with 10 or 15 minutes to go.

Donegal's Peader Mogan attempts to shrug off the challenge of Cavan defender Killian Clarke. (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

“We felt when we got it back level, the pressure was back on Donegal, but the goals gave them the breathing space and gave them time to run down the clock and see it out. We had to go for it at that stage and left gaps behind . . . they could have got in for another goal to be honest.

“There is no point in sitting back and getting a morale defeat, six or seven points, you might as well go for it when you are this far.”

Donegal manager Bonner, meanwhile, insisted his side were not motivated by the hurt of losing out to Cavan in the 2020 Ulster Final in Armagh.

“Absolutely not. We can’t hide from the fact that we came up short on that occasion and we knew the dangers that Cavan would bring,” said Bonner.

“It was trying redemption more than anything else, to be quite honest, within the group. We knew they would bring that energy and that intensity to the game.

“It was a real proper Championship match played in front of a decent crowd, a proper day for football. In fairness to Cavan they threw everything at us.

“We played some really good football but at the same time we weren’t near where we need to be at, to be quite honest. We need to bring a sustained period of 75 minutes of football to the Ulster final if we are going to win it, but we look forward to that and it’s great to be back in it.”

Read more: Former Derry captain Mark Lynch praised for opening up about cancer battle

Read more: Cork vs Kerry: Score recap as Kingdom progress to Munster SFC final

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