Cavan will have to shake their recent habit of starting matches slowly if they are to challenge reigning champions Donegal in the Ulster final next weekend, according to manager Mickey Graham.

Graham was speaking after witnessing his side overcome a ten-point deficit to record a single score win over Down in a provincial semi-final in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

It's not the first time Graham's side have overhauled a significant lead in this year's championship, having also overturned a seven-point deficit against Monaghan in the opening round.

"We leave ourselves a mountain to climb in the second half of matches, and today was no different," he said, "but you are not going to get away with that against the machine of Donegal.

"If we let them do that they will put us to the sword, so we have a lot of work to do."

Graham told RTÉ Sport he wonders if some day his side will find themselves ahead at half-time, but added that he has warned his players not to get a shock if they do find themselves in such a position.

He said that at half-time, with his side eight points in arrears, he highlighted a lot of "silly stuff" from the Breffni men.

"We said at half time we were doing a lot of silly stuff, lots of mistakes being made and we weren't putting pressure on Down.

"We said if this is going to be the last 35 minutes of the year lets go out fighting and try and give them a game.

"That's what the lads did and they showed great determination," he added.

Graham paid tribute to his players, highlighting the contribution of Padraig Faulkner and half-time substitute Conor Madden in particular.

With just a week to go until the provincial decider in this year's jam-packed championship, Graham admitted it will be a big ask for his players, who will be facing a sixth game in six weeks, to go out and face a Donegal side chasing a third title on the trot.

"I thought we looked tired in the first half, and the games could be catching up with us," he said.

However he added that the momentum of reaching another Ulster final will hopefully give his players "a wee bit of an extra boost".