Mournemen Kil-led off by Lilywhites
Down 0-10 Kildare 1-10
There will be no All-Ireland Under-21 medal for James Colgan and his colleagues to add to their minor medal of 2005 after the Mourne men were beaten by Leinster champions Kildare at Navan on Saturday evening.
Down have been traditionally slow starters in this competition and their pedestrian opening in this game proved their downfall.
Despite enjoying wind advantage, they were too slow to make best use of the elements in the opening half.
In fact after team captain James Colgan had kicked wide following a burst forward from the throw-in, it was the Leinster champions who created the better chances in the opening 10 minutes and it was they who opened the scoring with a point from a free by the impressive Alan Smyth after four minutes.
Declan Brennan at full back and Gary Whyte at centre half back were impressive in repulsing Down attacks and with David Whyte in the half forward line winning possession from Niall McConnell's short kick outs against the wind, Down had managed only two points at the end of the first quarter, these from a Brannigan free and one from McComiskey from play after a good interception by Duffin.
Down supporters did have reason for hope in the second quarter when they added four points without reply.
But Glenn Ryan's charges always looked dangerous and seven minutes before the break they struck on the counter attack.
A Down attack broke down when Ryan Kelly lost possession and, as Kildare swept downfield, Kieran Kelly robbed Digney to place Smullen who gave McAllister in the Down goal no chance from close range for the only goal of the game.
It left the half time score Down 0-7 Kildare 1-03 and was to be the difference between the teams at the final whistle.
Early in the second half, Brendan Rooney replaced Joe Murphy in the Down defence and as the half progressed, manger Pete McGrath used his full quota of substitutes but to no avail.
Down were forced to play a short passing game against the wind in the second half and too often they spilled possession against an uncompromising Kildare defence.
Kildare took the lead at the end of the third quarter when sub Joseph Cocoman collected a long delivery from David Whyte and kicked a point from a distance.
A wasteful Kildare attack kicked seven second half wides and whilst the Down tally in the same period was five, they were always kicking under pressure.
So the dream of an U21 title this year for Pete McGrath, to add to the minor and senior titles he has already won, is over.
Kildare will deservedly face Kerry in the All Ireland final.
Overall they were the better balanced team, physically stronger, and in full back Brennan, Gary and David Whyte, and Alan Smyth they have players who will no doubt figure in Kieran McGeeney's summer plans.
Kildare scorers: Gavin Smullen 1-02, Alan Smyth 0-3 (1f), Sean Fahy 0-02, Eoin O'Flaherty 0-01, Mark Waters 0-01, Joseph Cocoman 0-1
Down scorersPaul McComiskey 0-06(3f), Ciaran Brannigan 0-3(2f), Kevin McKiernan 0-01
KILDARE: Niall McConnell, Conor Brophy Declan Brennan, Sean Murphy, John Browne, Gary Whyte, Tom Byrne, Mark Waters, Neil Higgins, David Whyte, Eoin O'Flaherty, Kieran Kelly, Sean Fahy, Alan Smyth, Gavin Smullen. Subs used: Joseph Cocoman for Kieran Kelly (36min), Hugh McGrillen for Browne (59min).
DOWN: Michael McAllister, Mark Digney Colm Murney, Joe Murphy, Conor Garvey, Kevin Duffin, Tim Hanna, James Colgan, John Caldwell, Conor Maginn, Kevin McKiernan, Paul McComiskey, Ciaran Brannagan, Cathal Magee, Ryan Kelly.
Subs: Brendan Rooney for Murphy (34min), Packie Downey for Magee (53 min), Christopher Killen for Maginn (55min), Kevin Anderson for Caldwell (55min), Jamie O'Reilly for Brannigan (59min)
Referee: Pat McGovern (Galway).