Down stormed to victory in an extra-time thriller to lift the Ulster Under-20 title, their first since 2009, on an emotional night at the Athletic Grounds.

Monaghan's grieving footballers honoured the memory of their captain Brendan Og Duffy with a courageous performance that ran out of energy towards the end.

Two weeks after his tragic death in a road accident, his team-mates made a difficult return to action in a provincial decider, for which Ogie’s number six shirt was stood down.

The Farney lads found the strength to perform with style and conviction, inter-woven with dignity, in the most difficult of circumstances.

But it was Down, managed by former county attacker Conor Lavery, and with Meath legend Sean Boylan and ex-AFL star Marty Clarke in his backroom team, who had the stamina to last the pace of a non-stop encounter that delivered all of its pre-match promise, and more.

Monaghan raced into a two points lead through Darragh McElearney and Ronan Boyle, but they were rocked back by an eighth minute goal, Peter McMullan’s fisted effort to the back post punched home by Ruairi O’Hare.

Brendan and Esther Duffy, parents of the late Brendan Óg Duffy

The Farney men hit back with two delightful Jones scores to regain the lead, but Down, with Odhran Murdock and Tom Close giving them a real physical presence around the middle, pressed the Monaghan kick-out and dominated possession.

With adventurous goalkeeper Charlie Smyth pushing up into the opposition half to give them an overlap, they found holes in the Monaghan defence to carve out scores.

Wing back Anthony Morgan and Tom Smyth landed scores, with Shealan Johnston converting a free for a 1-04 to 0-5 advantage at the water break

Monaghan struck a couple on the breakaway, including a superb Jason Irwin effort, but Down still held the upper hand, defender Patrick McCarthy easing them two ahead.

It was against the run of play that McElearney punched home a 26th minute goal to send Monaghan towards the interval on a high, with Jones adding a couple more to bring his tally to six, and a 1-09 to 1-07 lead.

Tom Smyth fired over his second to narrow the gap, and as Monaghan responded, they repeatedly ran into a red wall of defenders.

And basic errors in their own rearguard saw fouls committed which Down somehow, with glaring misses, failed to punish.

Just a point separated the sides at the second drinks break, after Jones and Donnach Swinburne had traded scores with Down substitute Andrew Gilmore (2), sprung from the bench to address their free kick woes.

And he had much more than placed ball skills in his locker, smashing home a magnificent 48th minute goal to put his side back in front.

Ruairí O'Hare holds off Shane Slevin

Danny Magill pushed them further ahead, but the Monaghan men found the strength to hit two late scores from, Kyle Connolly and Jones to tie it up at 2-11 to 1-14.

Gilmore and Shea Croskery swung over points to swing the momentum back in Down’s favour midway through extra-time,

Full back Ryan Magill was a rock for Down, along with Anthony Morgan, as the Farney lads were turned back time and again.

Goalkeeper Charlie Smyth thumped over a long range free to put three between them, and as Monaghan chased the goal they so badly needed, they were caught on the breakaway for Down sub Justin Clarke to palm home his side’s third.

Down: C Smyth (0-02, 2f); T Fettes, R Magill, P McCarthy (0-01); T Smyth (0-02), L Toal, A Morgan (0-01); O Murdock, T Close; D Magill (0-1), S Johnston (0-2, 1f), J McGovern; P McMullan (0-01), E Brown, R O’Hare (1-1).

Subs: A Gilmore (1-03, 0-02f) for Brown (38), S Og McCusker for Fettes (48), J Clarke (1-00) for T Smyth (57), S Croskery (0-01) for McGovern (59), McGovern for Magill (74), P Brooks for McCarthy (81)

Monaghan: R Farrelly; R Grimes, T McPhillips, R Boyle (0-01); D McElearney (1-01), M Meehan, S Hanratty; G McPhillips, J Wilson; D Treanor, J Irwin (0-02), M Hamill; S Slevin, S Jones (0-08, 3f), S Swinburne (0-01).

Subs: K Connolly (0-1) for Slevin (43), J McKeown for Hamill (52), O O’Hanlon for Meehan (56), J Doogan for McPhillips (57), L McDonald for Irwin (60+3), Irwin for Wilson (69), Hamill for O’Hanlon (70), R Hanrattty for Jones (74)

Referee: K Eannetta (Tyrone).