Cavan, chasing a hat-trick of titles, fielded 10 players who won the title last year, and three from the 2011 Ulster-winning team.
That experience showed from the start, as they raced into a three-point lead in the opening five minutes.
Michael Argue had a fine game in midfield and Cavan’s performance was hallmarked by huge intensity and work-rate high up the field, which forced Down into a lot of turnovers.
Enda O’Reilly hit three spectacular long-range frees to stretch Cavan’s lead to 0-7 to 0-1 before Ryan Johnston scored Down’s only first-half point from play after 22 minutes.
Cavan led by 0-9 to 0-2 at half-time and made another push towards their third final in a row with a goal 30 seconds after the restart, by Paul O’Connor.
He collected a long free in and struck the ball high into the roof of the net to put Cavan 10 points clear.
Down responded with their best spell of the game and hit three unanswered points but Enda O’Reilly caught the eye again with a superb curling free from the sideline followed by his first from play.
Cavan were on top all over the field and the second half was played at a pedestrian pace. It was long over as a contest before Down defender Danny Hughes was sent off for a straight red card in the last minute.
DOWN: M Cunningham; M Hughes, R Lively, D Murtagh; R Johnston (0-1), C McCartan, D O’Hanlon; C Gough, C Maginn; J Johnston, M Bagnall (0-1), S McArdle; N Madine (0-1), D Savage (0-3, 2f), M Monan
Subs: G McGovern for Lively 33mins, P Murdock for Maginn 48mins, D Gilmore for McArdle 53mins, J Flynn for Bagnall 60mins
CAVAN: C Gilsenan (0-1, a 45); J McLoughlin, K Clarke, C Brady; D McVitty, D Sexton, F Flanagan (0-1); B Sankey, M Argue (0-2); G Smith, C Conroy, T Mooney (0-1); E O’Reilly (0-5, 4f), P O’Connor (1-0), J Brady (0-2, 1f)
Subs: J Dillon for O’Connor 48mins, K Duke for Conroy 50mins, P McEvoy for Flanagan 56mins, C Madden for Mooney 58mins, C Moyna for Argue 60mins
Referee: Cathal O’Hagan (Tyrone).