The Red Hands are going for a fifth successive title, and they began the defence with a resounding 3-17 to 0-11 win over Queen’s University at Healy Park.
Goals from Ronan O’Neill, Connor McAliskey and Johnny Munroe settled the game in treacherous conditions, after the students had eased into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead early on with three Ryan Murray scores.
Speculation over Marty Clarke’s return to Down colours continues, and he showed glimpses of his brilliance with some creative touches as QUB playmaker.
Derry got off to a winning start by defeating Antrim by 4-16 to 2-12 at Owenbeg.
Shane Heavron marked his debut with two well taken goals in a man of the match performance, with Liam McGoldrick and Emmet McGuckin, from a penalty, also hitting the net.
Thomas McCann scored both Antrim’s goals, one in each half.
In Section B, Michael Murphy came on as a substitute for his 100th Donegal appearance, helping his side to a 1-11 to 0-11 win over Down with a late point.
The vital score came early on, when Frank McGlynn scored a goal for the home side, and with Ciaran Thompson hitting some neat scores, they held out in the face of a late Mourne rally.
Maggie Farrelly of Cavan will have to wait for her historic appearance as the first female to referee an inter-county match, after the Fermanagh-St Mary’s game was called off due to weather conditions at Enniskillen.
Cavan got the better of Armagh by 2-8 to 0-11 at Crossmaglen, where both sides finished with 13 men.
Both Breffni goals came in the opening 20 minutes, scored by Niall McDermott and Chris Conroy.
Meanwhile, Ulster University stunned Monaghan with a 2-16 to 1-9 win at Clones.