Down's class and resilience was too much for Fermanagh to handle at the Athletic Grounds as they comfortably set up a meeting with Monaghan in the Ulster U20 Football Championship final.
An early Ruairi O’Hare goal gave them the platform to control the game, and they led from the opening minute until the final whistle.
Managed by former Down attacker Conor Laverty, who has Meath legend Sean Boylan and ex-AFL star Marty Clarke in his backroom team, the Mourne lads eased off after building up a nine-point lead, and won pulling up, failing to score in the final 23 minutes of the contest.
Down were seeking out target man O'Hare with long ball right from the off, and it didn’t take long to pay off.
Sean Campbell pumped a long delivery forward, and the tall O’Hare out-jumped his marker to collect and rifle the ball to the roof of the net.
Mourne running power and pace had the Erne defence under sustained pressure, and when Shealan Johnston and Anthony Morgan slotted over points, they led by 1-03 to 0-02 after ten minutes.
Darragh McBrien nailed a couple of scores to keep Fermanagh in it, but they lacked the physicality that helped their opponents to gain the upper hand in almost every area.
Goalkeeper Sean McNally, with three superb saves, came to the Lakelanders’ rescue as Down kept attacking in waves.
By the water break, it was 1-05 to 0-03, and a stylish John McGovern score stretched the lead to seven.
Conor Love and McBrien were on target at the other end, but McGovern’s third helped Down to a 1-09 to 0-06 interval lead.
Danny Magill’s work-rate and tenacity kept the Mourne lads on the front foot as they moved nine clear, hitting four of the first five scores of the second half, the pick of them a delightful Gilmore effort.
LATEST:@EirGrid— Ulster GAA (@UlsterGAA) July 16, 2021
Ulster U20 FC Semi Final
2nd half, 48 mins@OfficialDownGAA 1-13@FermanaghGAA 0-09
Ronan McCaffrey with a Fermanagh point just before the second half water break#Ulster2021 pic.twitter.com/bdJ6NSYpw8
Josh Largo-Ellis and Joe McDade were at the heart of Fermanagh’s best efforts to find a way back, and scores from Ronan McCaffrey and McDade trimmed the deficit back to seven by the three-quarter stage.
But they lacked the ambition to really put a dent in Down’s healthy lead, and a final quarter stalemate produced just one score in 18 minutes, a McBrien free in stoppage time.
Meanwhile, Monaghan overturned a 0-09 to 1-01 half-time deficit against Donegal at Brewster Park to book a place in the final.
Donnach Swinburne's penalty was the only goal of the first half and his second strike 12 minutes in the second half levelled up the game.
The Farney County kicked on from there and although Ryan McFadden’s goal put just two between the sides in stoppage time, Swinburne completed his hat-trick to earn a 3-10 to 1-11 win for Monaghan.
Down: C Smyth (0-01, f); T Fettes, S Campbell, P McCarthy; T Smyth, O Murdock, R Magill; A Morgan (0-01), T Close (0-02, 1mark); D Magill (0-01), S Johnston (0-02, 1f), J McGovern (0-03); A Gilmore (0-02), E Brown (0-01), R O’Hare (1-0).
Subs: L Toal for Campbell (h-t), L McManus for Brown (44), S Og McCusker for Gilmore (44), S Croskery for T Smyth (55), J Clarke for McGovern (55)
Fermanagh: S McNally; A Jones, J Horan, M Flanagan; Josh Largo-Ellis, A McManus, Z Kyle; Joe McDade (0-01), Justin McDade; F O’Brien, T Keenan, Jack Largo-Ellis; R McCaffrey (0-02), D McBrien (0-05, 2f, 1mark), C Love (0-02, 1f).
Subs: D King for McManus (12), L McKenna for Keenan (h-t), R McDonnell for Jones (33), E McCabe for Justin McDade (44), R McHugh for Flanagan (53)
Referee: P Clarke (Cavan)
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