Down 0-16 Tyrone 0-9
Down turned on the power in a devastating final 20 minutes to blow away the challenge of All-Ireland champions Tyrone at Newry.
The Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup holders hit nine unanswered points after the Red Hands had gone in front for the first time early in the second half in front of a crowd of 3,750 at Pairc Esler.
Down made a lively start with scores from Conor Garvey and Michael Magee, but the sides were level three times in the opening quarter, Raymond Mulgrew and Stephen O’Neill on target for Tyrone.
Two superb long range scores, kicked into the gusting breeze by wing back Hugh Davey, helped the Mourne men pull two points clear by the 27th minute, but the Red Hands finished the first half strongly when newcomer Gareth Devlin raced through for an individual point, before O’Neill brought his tally to three.
Down crafted a goal chance in the dying moments of the half when Danny Hughes sent Ronan Sexton through, but Cavanagh saved the day with a wonderful tackle.
The sides were deadlocked on 0-6 each at the break, and Cavanagh kicked Tyrone ahead for the first time six minutes into the second half.
The home support among the Pairc Esler crowd of 3,750 were bracing themselves for an onslaught from the All-Ireland champions, but it was Down who turned on the power with a devastating final 20 minutes.
They simply blew the Red Hands away, hitting nine points without reply. John Fegan, John Boyle, Magee, Daniel Hughes and substitute Danny Hughes all hit quality scores as the Tyrone challenge crumbled.
Even the introduction of more big guns from the bench could not turn the tide for a Tyrone side that in all called on 11 players who helped beat Kerry back in September.
This tie may have lacked the drama and excitement of last summer’s Ulster Championship replay at the same venue, which saw the Mourne men sensationally dump the Red Hands out of the provincial title race, a zero count of yellow cards perhaps telling a significant part of the story.
But it was another good day at the office for Ross Carr’s men, and while the Down boss was remaining cautious in his reflections on this thumping win, he saw many positives after his side demolished the Tyrone challenge in a one-sided final 20 minutes.
“We’re very happy, but I think we have got to put it in perspective too. You had a team who have won the all-Ireland and have just come back from a fortnight’s holidays on Friday. We’re delighted with our own work, but you’ve got to put it in perspective too,” said Carr.
“We asked the boys last week and again today to use it as a training session, and that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to blow out the cobwebs from the break, but again I wouldn’t go overboard on it either.
“We’re very happy with the way we played, but we know that there are massive tasks ahead.
Down: B McVeigh, D Rafferty, M Cole, C Garvey (0-1), K McKernan, L Sloan, H Davey (0-2), J Lynch, J Ireland (0-1), R Sexton, J Boyle (0-1), D Hughes (0-2), J Fegan (0-3, 2f), C Magee, M Magee (0-4, 3f).
Subs: A Carr for McKernan (h-t), K Duffin for Rafferty (45), B Coulter (0-2) for C Magee (48)
Tyrone: J Devine, M Swift, P Donnelly, M McGee, D Harte, S Cavanagh (0-1), P Jordan, K Hughes, A Cassidy, R Mellon, C Doris, G Devlin (0-1), R Mulgrew (0-1), S O’Neill (0-5, 3f), T McGuigan (0-1).
Subs: J McMahon for McGuigan (h-t), E McGinley for Doris (50), M Penrose for Mellon (52)
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).