TALK about leaving the good wine to the end! Cavan hauled themselves up off their knees in the most dramatic fashion to chisel out their fourth successive Ulster U21 football championship at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh last night.
Yet the reigning champions looked to have surrendered their crown when, having been restricted to just one point in the first 29 minutes of the second-half, they produced a Lazarus-like recovery to sweep to glory with a goal and three points in the last four minutes.
Breathless Cavan manager Peter Reilly gasped afterwards: "It's just incredible! What a comeback. The boys certainly stood up to be counted as never before."
While the Breffni side march into the history books, for Donegal this was the ultimate heartbreak.
Having played second fiddle for the greater part of a turgid, fractious first-half, they seized the initiative after the break and bossed the exchanges up until that spectacular finish.
Reilly's side led by 1-2 to 0-2 at half-time, Joe Dillon's opportunist 19th minute goal having put an element of gloss on a first-half performance that was ragged and patchy for the most part with Donegal equally culpable.
But it was a much different story after the break.
Donegal swept forward in waves, pilfering five unanswered points from Hugh McFadden, Patrick McBrearty (2) and the McHugh brothers Ryan and Eoin to gallop into a stunning 0-8 to 1-3 lead.
Cavan, though, suddenly unleashed previously latent reserves of character and resilience.
Towering midfield ace Liam Buchanan triggered their recovery operation by drilling in a 59th minute goal that saw his side creep in front by a point.
Michael Argue also left an impression on the scoreboard when he flighted over a point a minute later and then the ever-dangerous Dillon and corner-back Barry Fortune posted injury-time points that garnished a victory which had looked beyond the compass of their side with just five minutes remaining.
Cavan: J Farrelly; B Fortune (0-1), K Clarke, P Faulkner; G Smith. C Moynagh, C Brady; L Buchanan (1-0), M Argue (0-1); P Graham, E Flanagan, A Watson; D McVetty, K Bouchier (0-3, all frees), J Dillon (1-1, 0-1 free). Subs: A O'Hara for Moynagh (22), T Hayes for Bouchier (39), E Hession for Flanagan (44), C Byrne for Graham (59). Yellow card: Faulkner (39). Black card: Moynagh (22).
Donegal: J Coll; C Brennan, C Parke, A McCloskey; M O'Reilly, R McHugh (0-1), G Gallagher; H McFadden (0-1), C Thompson; D Mulgrew, P McBrearty (0-4, 0-3 frees), E Doherty; J O'Malley, W Gillespie (0-1), E McHugh (0-1). Subs: C Cannon for McCluskey (38), J O'Malley for Doherty (52). Yellow cards: McFadden (13), McCluskey (23), Doherty (43).
Referee: Cathal O'Hagan (Tyrone).