Derry 0-11 Down 0-9: A masterful display of finishing by Conleith Gilligan was the highlight of holders Derry's march into the final at the Morgan Athletic Grounds, Armagh, yesterday.
But manager John Brennan will be hoping for a more cohesive effort from his side if they are to retain the trophy. Yesterday's contest was devoid of flair and invention, littered with mistakes and spliced with turgid spells of sterile cross-field passing.
It was hardly surprising that five of the overall first-half total of seven points came from frees, Aidan Carr posting three for Down while Gilligan and Paddy Bradley were on target for Derry.
Down's 0-4 to 0-3 interval lead was wiped out immediately on the resumption when Mark Lynch fired over a Derry point and this sparked a sustained bout of Oak Leaf pressure, orchestrated by the dominance of Joe Diver and James Conway at midfield.
A brace of points from the consistently accurate Gilligan and another from the impressive Cailean O'Boyle eased Derry into a 0-8 to 0-6 lead and when the former hoisted over his fifth point, Brennan's side acquired even greater authority.
Substitute Arthur McConville landed two late points for Down but Gilligan cemented Derry's victory with his sixth score.
Down's Kalum King was red-carded in the 70th minute by referee Padraig Hughes for kicking and the implications of his dismissal could be serious for the Mourne county.
Scorers - Derry: C Gilligan 0-6 (3f), P Bradley 0-2 (1f), B McGoldrick, C O'Boyle, M Lynch 0-1 each. Down: A Carr 0-5f, A McConville 0-2 (1f), M Poland (f), D Gordon 0-1 each.
Down - M McAllister; K Quinn, N Brannigan, D McCartan; N McParland, K Duffin, K Anderson; C Gough, P Turley; D Gordon, A Carr, K King; M Miskelly, E McCartan, B Coulter. Subs: D Turley for Brannigan (h-t), M Poland for E McCartan (h-t), A Brannigan for K Anderson (h-t), D Hughes for Miskelly (47), A McConville for D Turley (62).
Derry - D Devlin; B McCallion, L Morrow, R Dillon; C McKaigue, N Forrester, S L McGoldrick; N Forrester, J Diver; B McGoldrick, M Lynch, G O'Kane; P Bradley, C O'Boyle, C Gilligan. Subs: J Conway for McCamley (h-t),E McGuckin for Lynch (62), K O'Neill for Diver (65), A McAlynn for O'Kane (70), P J McCloskey for Conway (70).
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh).