Heartache for Mournemen in minor showdown
It was a case of so near yet so far for the Down minor football team when they just failed to book an Ulster final spot against Derry in Saturday's lively semi-final against a well-drilled Cavan side.
The Mourne outfit had kept their opponents in check for the greater part of the game and had occupied the driving seat in the first half following a brace of goals from Ruair McCrickard and Liam Kerr.
The duo, who posed plenty of problems for the Cavan defence throughout, looked to have put their team in a comfortable position but when lanky midfielder James Smith imposed himself in the middle third of the pitch matters took a different turn.
The Ballyjamesduff student was immense in the second half as he repeatedly won clean possession which allowed his side to unleash a concerted blitz on the Down defence.
His side may have been in arrears by six points at one stage but the impressive Smith turned the game round in their favour virtually single-handedly.
If Smith was the architect in chief of Cavan's possession ration, then Oisin Pierson was their executioner in chief. He scored 0-5, four in the second half, and pulled his side level in the 41st minute.
Pierson was influential in the closing stages as Cavan stretched their lead out to four.
Down didn't score for 12 minutes yet hit the last two points, but Cavan deservedly held on to set up a re-match of their 2015 Ulster final defeat by Derry.
Cavan: O Pierson 0-5 (1f), P Lynch 0-4 (3fs), C Madden 0-3, J Smith 0-2, S Keogan 0-1. Down: L Kerr 1-1, R McCrickard 1-0, C McCrickard 0-3fs, D McClements, R McCormack, A Gribben 0-1.
Cavan: G O'Rourke; J Cooke, P Meade, K Brady; P Rogers, E Fortune, D Cusack; R Patterson, J Smith; K Hendrick, C Madden, O Kiernan; O Pierson, P Lynch, S Keogan. Subs: K Cosgrove for Patterson (BC, 18), P Nulty for Fortune (44), T Reilly for Cosgrove (54).
Down: J Hazard; C Fitzsimons, B Gallen, T Gordon; F McElroy, P Fegan, S Annett; R McCormack, R McCrickard; R Anderson, C Clarke, D McClements; T Prenter, C McCrickard, L Kerr. Subs: L Middleton for Prenter (41), R McEvoy for R McCrickard (54), A Gribben for Anderson (54), R Carr for McClements (60).
Referee: S Laverty (Antrim).