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Cavan looking good for fourth straight title

It seems that little will stop this Cavan team from completing four-in-a-row Ulster Under-21 titles after they safely negotiated their way past Derry in Celtic Park last night.

This same group of players claimed the 2011 Ulster Championship at minor level and they now face Tyrone in the first round proper next Wednesday night at Kingspan Breffni Park.

They were helped on their way with a goal in the third minute. Paul Graham's looping attempt at a point came down off the post to the eager arms of Joe Dillon who blasted it to the net. In the challenge, Declan Brown fell awkwardly and had to be replaced by Anthony Hargan.

The lengthy stoppage took almost 10 minutes and Dillon added a neat point from distance to go along with Graham's first point, establishing a five-point gap before Derry got their first score of the night, a James Kearney free.

Michael Argue contributed three wonderfully-struck points, each with a fade from right to left, but the hammer blow came in injury time for Derry. A kickout from Cavan goalkeeper James Farrelly eluded the midfield and Graham latched on it, nipping a toe in to emerge in the clear.

He passed off to Dillon who floated a ball across the goals to Enda Flanagan who again opted for power with his finish to leave a six points gap at half-time.

The second half remained largely uneventful, a flare-up over a disputed free between Derry's Gareth McKinless and Cavan's Graham providing the only moment that got a small crowd animated.

Derry's Kearney hit two impressive points within a few minutes, one from the dead ball, but despite the gap slightly narrowing it felt like a mere reprieve from further Cavan punishment as they dominated around the middle, Argue delivering a man-of-the-match performance.

With 10 minutes remaining, Cavan produced another sweeping move, Kevin Bouchier off-loading to Flanagan, who punched it over the head of Derry goalkeeper Sean McNicholl into the path of Graham.

That was game, set and match as Cavan began to run the subs bench. One of those to see gametime was the highly-rated Nevin O'Donnell, a player who, even at his tender age, has been the victim of two cruciate ligament injuries. He lasted 10 minutes here before he went over on ankle and was withdrawn.

Derry offered only token resistance, Kearney with his five points emerging as one with his reputation enhanced, but in truth they were miles behind in their cohesion and teamwork.

Tyrone will have been well-warned by this display. Cavan have looked at the bigger picture and are reaping benefits of their foresight at this level. They will be hard to stop.

DERRY: S McNicholl; F Duffin, G McKinless, D Brown; C Carville, L McGoldrick, C McAtamney; B Óg McGilligan (capt) 0-1, N Rocks; J Kearney 0-5, 3f, C McFaul, E Duffy; T O'Brien, R Bell 0-2, 2f, A O'Neill 0-2, 1f.

Subs: A Hargan for Brown (4m), N McNicholl 0-1, for Rocks (30m), E Bradley 0-1, 1f, for Carville (41m) R Moore for E Duffy (56m), P McGroogan for O'Neill (60m)

CAVAN: J Farrelly; B Fortune, K Clarke, P Faulkener; G Smith, C Moynagh (Capt), D McVeety; B Sankey, M Argue 0-4; P Graham 1-3, J Dillon 1-1, C Brady; C Madden 0-1, K Bouchier 0-1, 1f, E Flanagan 1-0.

Subs: N O'Donnell for Madden (50m), Watson for Fortune (51m), C Byrne for Bouchier (56m), L Buchanan for Argue (57m), E Hessin for O'Donnell (60m), J McCabe for Smith (63m)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)

Belfast Telegraph