The vaunted Down U20 side passed their first test with flying colours this evening as they proved much too strong for Cavan in the Ulster quarter-final.

The winners were outstanding; all over they field, they had strong performances and on the evidence of this performance, they will take a lot of beating.

Cavan will point to the fact they were minus the services of a couple of county seniors while Down had all of theirs due to their senior team already being out of the championship but, in truth, it is unlikely to have made the difference as Down just had too much speed and firepower for the game but out-gunned hosts.

By the first water break, Down had opened a five-point lead, helped by a well-taken, soccer-style goal from Andrew Gilmore, and they didn't look back.

The Mourne lads were hugely impressive, kicking some wonderful scores and counter-attacking at blistering speed. At the back, Cavan just could not cope with their pace while the hosts struggled to make inroads at the other end.


Wins for Down and Monaghan

Early on, the exchanges were tight. Cavan opened the scoring through Enda Maguire before Down replied with a clever fisted effort from full-forward Eamon Brown. The sides were level twice more; Danny Magill and goalkeeper Charlie Smyth (with a 50-metre free) on the mark for Down and the Breffni boys registering with a super Sean McEvoy score and a poacher's point from Eoin McCaffrey.

Cavan then hit the front when captain Eoin Clarke sent over a huge point with the outside of the right boot - but that was as good as it got for the home team. Down struck for their first goal when Shealan Johnston created space with a flick to Ryan Magill, he passed along the turf to Gilmore and his soccer-style finish was perfect.

Down’s high press on the Cavan kick-out was reaping rewards and they now turned up the heat. Danny Magill and Emmett Boylan traded frees before Tom Smyth fisted over and, rounding off the first quarter, Johnston added another from long range.

A fantastic strike from Tom Close and a Ruairi O’Hare free followed as Down began to display their talents. Cavan stopped the bleeding with a well-taken Emmett Boylan score but a beautiful strike from Johnston and another for Tom Smyth made it a seven-point game before Magill found the net after good work from Gilmore and Brown.

Suddenly, there were 10 points in it and the game was over as a contest. A 45 from goalkeeper Smyth and an easy point for Brown rounded off the first half as Down went in at the short whistle 2-12 to 0-6 ahead and with one foot in the semi-final.

The second half was attritional. Down enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the third quarter but only mustered two points, another 45 from Charlie Smyth and a score from play for Gilmore.

Cavan landed two neat scores from McEvoy, their best performer on the night, and impressive sub Paddy McPhilips, but the Blues lost centre-back Ryan Kennedy to a second yellow card and while they tried hard, they never looked remotely like threatening to overhaul Down’s lead.

Close and Charlie Smyth, whose place-kicking was magnificent, raised further white flags and sub Sean Óg McCusker had the final say as the Conor Laverty-managed Mourne lads, who have Marty Clarke and Meath legend Sean Boylan in the back room, won pulling up with 14 points to spare.

Cavan: Lorcan Hammond, Niall Carolan, Cathal Leddy, Cormac McKeogh, Cian Boylan, Ryan Kennedy, Mark Maguire, Enda Maguire (0-1), Brían O’Rourke, Ryan Brady, Caoimhan McGovern, Eoin Clarke (0-1), Eoin McCaffrey (0-1), Emmett Boylan (0-2, 1f), Sean McEvoy (0-2)

Subs: Matthew McGahern for R Brady (half-time), Philip Smyth for O’Rourke (38), Michael Owens for McCaffrey (43), Paddy McPhilips (0-1) for Maguire (46), James McCahill for Clarke (58), Tom Harten for Maguire (temp, 60)

Down: Charlie Smyth (0-4, 2f, two 45s), Tiernan Fettes, Sean Campbell, Patrick McCarthy, Tom Smyth (0-2), Peter McMullan, Ryan Magill, Anthony Morgan, Tom Close (0-2), Danny Magill (1-2, 1f), Shealan Johnston (0-2), John McGovern, Andrew Gilmore (1-1), Eamon Brown (0-2), Ruairí O’Hare (0-1f)

Subs: Lorcan Toal for McMullan (28 mins), Odhran Murdock for Morgan (42), Liam McManus for Gilmore (43), Sean Óg McCusker (0-1) for McGovern (48), Shea Croskey for T Smyth (48)

Referee: Enda McFeely (Donegal)


Elsewhere, Fermanagh had a 2-13 to 0-10 win over Antrim at Brewster Park and they will now face Down in the semi-final.

An early goal by Josh Largo-Elis set the Ernesiders on their way, with a run of points before the break from Conor Love giving the hosts a 1-06 to 0-05 half-time lead.

As was the case with Harry Kane in a different code on Wednesday evening, Fermanagh's Darragh McBrien had a penlaty saved before lashing in the rebound early in the second period.

That score saw Fermanagh extend their lead and they eventually ran out nine-point winners.