Down boss Eamonn Burns acknowledged Tyrone's superiority but believes Sunday's Ulster final was yet another stage in the growth of his improving side.

The Mourne men came into the championship with little in the way of expectations, but wins over Armagh and Monaghan saw them into the provincial decider, and a qualifier tie against either of those sides now stands between Down and the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Down rebounded from an early Tyrone blitz to trail by just two points at the break in Clones, but were thoroughly outclassed by Mickey Harte's side in the second half, as Tyrone ran out 2-17 to 0-15 winners to defend their title.

"Tyrone were very deserving winners. I don't think we've any complaints," Burns told RTÉ Sport.

"I thought we equipped ourselves very well, especially in the first half. We'd a good goal chance just before half-time and if we had have taken that it would have given us a good platform for the second half.

"But I thought in the second half Tyrone upped the intensity and were coming at us in threes and fours. It's probably something we need to look at going forward, but today is another step along the line."

Losing an Ulster final might be a huge disappointment, but it's a far cry from the barren spell of almost two years without a win in either league or championship that the county brought into 2017, and Burns predicts that there is the start of much improved fortunes for Down football.

"We've had a very good Ulster Championship. They are very disappointed in the changing room, but we've made good progress. The next task, whether it be Monaghan or Armagh, will be another tough test.

"We've a lot to come. I thought our experienced players played well, and the young players we have brought in over the last two years worked hard and kept working to the end. That's very encouraging for us."