Barton is delighted as revitalised Derry have fans dreaming again
Derry 1-17 - Cavan 1-10
Slowly but surely the green shoots of recovery are becoming more pronounced within a Derry side that for too long now has been a bedfellow of anonymity in terms of trophy success.
A matter of weeks ago the Oak Leaf men took their first faltering steps under new boss Damian Barton and yesterday further evidence that a renaissance could be imminent was provided when Cavan were bundled out of the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.
It's a win that has not only helped Derry's mute support find a voice again but has now set up an alluring final against Tyrone next weekend in what will be the third meeting between the sides in less than two months.
For Barton, it's another challenge but an opportunity for his players to again showcase the new-found attacking strategy that has highlighted the headway they have made since the New Year.
Barton said: "In terms of progression it's good that we have players back again from their university sides.
"I thought in this game against Cavan that there were many, many positives in terms of our support running, creating chances and taking scores.
"People are saying that we have a big panel but we have no more players than any other county. Some of the boys started to break through the middle third in terms of how the game is played and that was a big plus factor."
With the games coming thick and fast, Barton acknowledged that his team have had to adapt to the demands of the new season.
"Even though we only played Tyrone last week, it seems like a long time ago because so much is happening now," added the Derry boss.
"We had a game in midweek, we now have a final coming up and the league is just round the corner.
"We need a recovery period now in preparation for the decider against Tyrone and we have to be ready for this test."
With Brendan Rogers and Emmet Bradley comfortable at midfield, Dermot McBride and Chrissy McKaigue shoring up the defence and the imposing Ryan Bell making hay up front, Derry carried an air of conviction and authority that have not always been their hallmarks of late.
They led by 1-10 to 0-6 at the break, by which time Bell had already one hand firmly on his fully-deserved man of the match trophy.
His exquisitely-taken 20th-minute penalty brought his side their only goal, which provided the momentum for a solid second-quarter effort during which he also landed three points that were complemented by another from Enda Lynn.
Cavan, restricted to sporadic forays, were never able to unveil any real degree of cohesion and only the efforts of Gearoid McKiernan, Conor Moynagh and Killian Brady in particular prevented Derry from taking a stranglehold in the game.
But this was nothing more than a postponement of the inevitable. From the 46th to the 63rd minute the Oak Leaf side whipped over points from all angles and distances that had their sparse following purring in the stand.
Danny Heavron, Cailean O'Boyle, Mark Craig, Shane Heavron and the ubiquitous Bell served up a crisp master-class in finishing that left their opponents marooned at 1-16 to 1-8, Killian Clarke's well-taken goal for Cavan in the 52nd minute a mere pin-prick in Derry's soaring morale.
Even the injection of experience that high-profile substitutes Eugene Keating and Seanie Johnston brought to the table could not turn the tide in favour of the Breffni side.
Manager Terry Hyland was downbeat having watched his players flounder in the face of Derry's concerted onslaught.
"We were very disappointing in the first-half when our ball-handling skills and finishing were not good," declared Hyland. "We maybe improved in the second-half but we never managed to get a real foothold in the game."
For Derry it's onwards and upwards.
And their new sense of confidence was perhaps best articulated when Barton declared: "I know we will be meeting Tyrone for a third time within a few weeks next Saturday but I hope that we might be meeting them more than once more after that."
Those green shoots could yet flower come the summer.
Derry: T Mallon; C Mullan, D McBride, R Ferris; G McKinless, C McKaigue, D Heavron 0-1; B Rogers, E Bradley 0-2; B Heron, J Kielt 0-2 (0-1 f), E Lynn 0-2; C Kearns 0-1, R Bell 1-5 (1-0 pen), C O'Boyle 0-2 (free). Subs: K McKaigue for Ferris (27), S Heavron 0-2 for Kearns (47), M Craig 0-1 for McKinless (50), C Murphy for O'Boyle (53), O Duffy for Heron, C Bradley for Kielt (66). Yellow cards: McKaigue (38), Rogers (61), K McKaigue. (61).
Cavan: R Galligan; J Hayes, F Flanagan, P Faulkner; C Brady 0-1, C Moynagh 0-2; N Murray; K Clarke 1-0, B Sankey; B Doyle, D Givney, E Henry; J Brady 0-3 (all frees), G McKiernan 0-2, P O'Connor. Subs: M Argue for Doyle (31), E Keating 0-1 (free) for O'Connor, N McDermott for Henry, K Brady for Hayes (all half-time), S Johnston (0-1) for Brady (53), L Murphy for Flanagan (66). Yellow Cards: C Brady (42), Keating (61), McDermott (69).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).