Cavan 0-12 Down 1-11: Down supremo James McCartan hailed a wonder goal by comeback kid Paul McComiskey as Cavan were put to the sword in a cracking Dr McKenna Cup opener at Kingspan Breffni Park.
McComiskey celebrated his return to the black and red fold by rifling home a peach of a goal in the fourth minute which set his side up for a well-merited victory.
“It was a tremendous finish by Paul after a great move and we did well to kick on from there and build up a useful early lead,” McCartan said after the final whistle.
“It's great to have Paul back in the mix because Down football can't afford to be without his sort of talent. The county has lost out on too many good players to emigration and what not over recent years.”
Down's greater division of labour in the final third was the stand-out ingredient amidst the cocktail of action that decided a vigorously contested match.
The Mournemen led for most of the match but made life hard for themselves by failing to come to terms with their hosts' workrate and a star performance by Cavan Gaels ace Martin Dunne.
Cavan edged matters on the possession front but a nightmare start allied to their inability to score more than four points in the second half left them with little room for complaint.
The Mournemen got the perfect start when McComiskey goalled after impressive target man Connaire Harrison fed the livewire number 15 who picked his spot with aplomb.
A classy point from galloping corner back Ryan Boyle moments later underpinned Down's turbo-charged start as Cavan's training-like tempo cried out for some turbo-charged injection.
Cavan belatedly got up and running with a point in the ninth minute from Gearoid McKiernan.
Down weren't flattered by their 1-3 to 0-1 first quarter lead but as they began to look less than assured in the vital diamond area of the field, Cavan hit four unanswered points to draw level (0-8 to 1-5) at the interval with Dunne notching three on the trot.
Cavan began the second half with renewed vigour and, it seemed, a greater level of ambition and the game had restarted just four minutes when McKiernan rattled the crossbar.
Down remained on the backfoot as the second half gathered pace and when Dunne rifled over his eighth point to put the hosts 0-10 to 1-6 in front, it looked like a home win was very on the cards.
Dunne's penultimate contribution on the scoreboard was the cue for the Down think-tank to introduce new, fresh legs laced with miles of experience and slowly but surely, the tide began to turn as they went on to secure the victory.
Cavan: A O'Mara; O Minagh, A Clarke, K Brady; P Reilly, J McCutcheon, D O'Reilly; T Corr, G McKiernan (0-3); C Mackey, N McDermott, M McKeever; K Meehan, D McKiernan, M Dunne (0-9, three frees).Subs: N Murray for K Meehan (inj, 6); O O'Connell for N Murray (41); M Brady for J McCutcheon (64).
Down: M Cunningham; D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle (0-1); D O'Hagan, G McAnulty, C Garvey; K King, K McKiernan; R Kelly (0-2, one free), A Carr, D Savage (0-1, free); C Harrison (0-3), P Turley, P McComiskey (1-0).Subs; B Coulter (0-2) for C Garvey (10); M Poland for D McCartan (44); L Doyle (0-2, two frees) for A Carr (43); C Laverty for D Savage (43); O Costello for P Turley (51); A Carr for K King (57).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).