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Cavan eye treble as Down brushed aside

Ulster Under-21 Championship

By John Campbell

The inviting prospect of a third successive Ulster U21 football title looms large on the horizon for Cavan following this emphatic semi-final win over Down at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

Sharper, more incisive and infinitely more cohesive, the Breffni side established a strong foothold in the first-half and cemented their dominance after the break leaving the Mourne side marooned and setting up a final against Donegal.

Cavan lost no time in setting out their stall last night, transferring the ball quickly from defence to attack with wing-backs Darragh McVitty and skipper Fergal Flanagan repeatedly driving forward.

And it was Flanagan who opened the scoring with Jack Brady and Michael Argue also hitting the target to leave the title-holders in a comfortable position with just six minutes gone.

And when Enda O'Reilly potted two frees in response to a Down point from Danny Savage, it was the signal for Cavan to take complete control.

The imposing Argue reigned supreme in the midfield exchanges with Down unable to cope with his aerial ability while full-forward Paul O'Connor remained a constant threat up front.

But Cavan had a let-off in the 18th minute when goalkeeper Conor Gilsenan brought off a magnificent save from a Michael Monan drive that looked destined for the net.

As if to underline his versatility, Gilsenan then looped up to drill over a '45' which negated Ryan Johnston's score for beleaguered Down.

With Argue spreading the ball intelligently and his partner Brian Sankey winning bountiful second-phase possession, Cavan streaked further into the clear when O'Reilly converted his third free and the busy Brady swept over a fine long-range effort to further emphasise the holders' superiority in the contest.

The Down defence, forced into conceding a succession of frees, were unable to shackle the Cavan full-forward line while in contrast the Mournemen managed only one score from play in a first half that proved nothing short of a nightmare for them.

And their woes were compounded immediately on the re-start when full-forward Paul O'Connor fielded a long through ball and pivoted smartly before drilling in the only goal of the game.

From then on Cavan merely freewheeled to victory, the accurate O'Reilly posting two further points and Argue setting the seal on an imperious display by rifling over the last score of the game.

The sending-off of defender Michael Hughes near the end merely added insult to injury for Down.

CAVAn: C Gilsenan (0-1, '45'); J McLoughlin, K Clarke, C Brady; D McVitty, D Sexton, F Flanagan (0-1) (P McEvoy 55); B Sankey, M Argue (0-1) (C Moynagh 60) ; P Graham (J Dillon 45), C Conroy (K Duke 50), T Mooney (0-1) (C Madden 57); E O'Reilly (0-5, 4f), P O'Connor (1-0), J Brady (0-2).

Down: M Cunningham; M Hughes, R Lively (G McGovern 33), D Murtagh; R Johnston, C McCartan, D O'Hanlon; C Gough, C Maginn (P Murdock 45); J Johnston (0-1), M Bagnall (0-1) (P Flynn 60), S McArdle (D Gilmore 51); N Madine (0-1), D Savage (0-3, 2f), M Monan.

Referee: Cathal O'Hagan (Tyrone).

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