Cavan 1-10 Donegal 1-16
Ulster champions Donegal launched the defence of their title with a six-point win over an inexperienced Cavan side at Breffni Park this afternoon.
A 1-6 tally from Colm McFadden steered the men from the north-west safely through to a first round tie against Derry next month.
The Breffni youngsters never looked like overhauling a Tir Chonail outfit that once again adopted a defensive strategy, but nevertheless managed to chalk up an impressive scoreline.
It was Cavan who made the early running, hitting three points in the opening five minutes, through Jack Brady, David Givney and a superb long range effort from Eugene Keating.
Brendan Fitzpatrick was desperately unlucky to see his first-time snapshot come back off the crossbar.
But Donegal started to commit more men to the defensive effort, and were level by tenth minute, Colm McFadden converting a free before Mark McHugh made it 0-3 each.
Donegal, with as many as 14 men in their own half, repeatedly frustrated their opponents and broke with pace on the counter-attack.
Full-back Neil McGee and wing back Leo McLoone even got themselves forward to kick points as they turned defence to attack with impressive efficiency.
Rory Kavanagh and McFadden also hit the target as Donegal moved into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead by the 27th minute.
And three minutes before the break, McFadden blasted a penalty to the roof of the net after Killian Clarke had hauled down Paddy McBrearty.
Donegal led by 1-7 to 0-4 at the halfway stage, and almost had a second goal in the opening minute of the second half when Karl Lacey slipped the ball to McFadden, but he was denied by an excellent James Reilly save.
McFadden and McHugh tagged on points, and Cavan had gone more than half an hour without scoring when substitute Niall McDermott converted a free.
But Donegal were now performing with more adventure, a more attack-minded set-up which saw corner back Frank McGlynn become the third defender to score.
When midfielder Neil Gallagher galloped through for a point, they had seven players on the scoresheet and a nine points advantage.
Keating and Givney pulled back points for the Breffni men, and McDermott gave them faint hope when he slotted home a penalty, awarded for a foul on Keating in the 59th minute.
But McFadden steered over three more frees, and while Keating hit his fifth point from play, Cavan limped into the Qualifiers.
Cavan : N McDermott 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), E Keating 0-5, D Givney 0-2, G McKiernan, J Brady 0-1 each.
Donegal: C McFadden 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-5f), R Kavanagh 0-3, M McHugh, L McLoone 0-2 each, N McGee, F McGlynn, N Gallagher 0-1 each.
CAVAN: J Reilly, K Clarke, P O’Reilly, K Meehan, J McLoughlin, D Reilly, R Maloney-Derham, D Givney, G McKiernan, F Flanagan, R Flanagan, M McKeever, J Brady, E Keating, B Fitzpatrick.
Subs: T Corr for Maloney-Derham, N McDermott for Fitzpatrick, N Smith for F Flanagan, K Tierney for McKeever, R Galligan for Brady
DONEGAL: P Durcan, P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn, L McLoone, K Lacey, A Thompson, R Kavanagh, N Gallagher, D Walsh, M McHugh, R Bradley, P McBrearty, C McFadden, D Walsh.
Subs: M O’Reilly for Bradley, M McElhinney for Walsh, D Molloy for Gallagher
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).