Returning duo give Donegal their cutting edge
The only other game that mattered in the make-up of the groups was the meeting of Donegal and Monaghan, where the return of Paddy McBrearty and Ryan McHugh to the starting line-up of Declan Bonner's men made a huge difference as they triumphed 4-17 to 0-19.
Their new addition Nathan Mullins is having a significant impact and he was involved in the first goal on seven minutes when he sliced through the defence, laying off to Caolan McGonagle, and it was transferred to the talented Odhran MacNiallais who finished with a typical dummy to the net.
The second goal arrived just prior to the half-time break and was finished with Ryan McHugh palming home.
Second half goals arrived on cue from McBrearty with a powerful shot on the three quarters mark. McBrearty was also involved in the final goal when Martin O'Reilly made it easy for Jamie Brennan to finish off.
It was a dead rubber game over in Burren when Down took on UUJ, with Eamonn Burns' men winning 1-14 to 0-9.
In the Creggan Ulster under-21 Championship, Enniskillen Gaels went down unexpectedly at the first hurdle to Down champions Carryduff on a 2-13 to 0-9 scoreline.
The Gaels minor captain Eoin Beacom, who picked up the St Paul's Tournament on New Year's Day, left the field after 15 minutes with an injury and their challenge faded with the Down men 1-8 to 0-3 in front at the break.
James Guinness was the star of the show with a personal telly of 1-8 and receiving Man of the Match as they progressed to the last four.
As expected, Donegal champions Gaoth Dobhair had too much for Antrim's O'Donovan Rossa in the other game of the weekend.
County player Michael O'Carroll showed his greater experience as they swept to a 4-7 to 1-5 win.
An early goal from James Connolly threatened a strong challenge from Rossa, but goalkeeper Mick Byrne let a soft shot slip through his hands.
Second half goals came from O'Carroll, Eamonn O'Colm and Daire Boyle.