Mickey Graham’s busy end to 2018 finished with a win in his first day at the office as Cavan manager, Conor Madden’s point deep into injury-time snatching a 0-13 to 1-9 McKenna Cup victory over Down.
The Mournemen, also under a new manager in Paddy Tally, battled back from five points down to level it near the end before coming up a little short against Cavan for the third time in 2018.
Experimentation aside, both teams had a good sprinkling of players who also contested a Division Two clash and a fiery All-Ireland qualifier this summer.
For Graham, who will continue to double-job it as manager of Longford club and Leinster giant-killers Mullinalaghta until the end of their fairytale adventure, this was a satisfactory start to his inter-county managerial career.
Down had the better of the first half and led for most of it right up until a Raymond Galligan free brought Cavan level for the first time at six points each just before the break.
The visitors had raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead with frees from Rory Mason and goalkeeper Rory Burns and points from Aaron McClements and Pat Havern.
Galligan’s free before the break was the first of five points in a row for Cavan with Ciaran Brady, Conor Madden and Stephen Smith (free) helping them into a 0-11 to 0-6 lead.
Down’s Pat Havern slotted home a penalty in the 56th minute to give Down hope and it sparked a mini revival.
Suddenly out of nowhere they were level with Ciaran Harney and Conor McGrady points levelling it up at 0-11 to 1-8.
Jack Brady edged Cavan ahead again and while Down newcomer McGrady responded in injury-time, there was still time for Madden to land the winner.
Elsewhere, McKenna Cup holders Donegal beat Queen’s University 0-21 to 0-11 in Ballybofey.
It was a first chance for former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, to run his eye over the Donegal players he’s now working alongside Declan Bonner.
Ciaran Thompson was named man-of-the-match and scored four points for the Ulster champions, who were far too strong for the Belfast students. Jamie Brennan and Michael Langan, who’ve established themselves in the Donegal team in the last couple of seasons, were prominent for Declan Bonner’s side, who led 0-13 to 0-5 at the break.
Elsewhere, Monaghan got their season up and running with a 1-20 to 1-12 win over Antrim at Clones on Saturday.
The 2018 All-Ireland semi-finalists hit seven points on the spin in the second quarter after a slow start.
Antrim led a few times in the early stages and raced into a 0-5 to 0-3 lead after 17 minutes with Ruairi McCann, Ryan Murray and Colm Duffin scores.
But the home side hit back with a vicious flurry of points.
Man-of-the-match Micheal Bannigan, Jack McCarron (two), Darren Freeman, Barry Kerr, James Mealiff and debutant Jamie Walsh put Monaghan 0-10 to 0-5 up after 32 minutes. Ryan Murray stopped the rot for Antrim after 15 scoreless minutes but they still trailed 0-11 to 0-6 at the break.
James Mealiff goaled early in the second half for Monaghan. Ruairi McCann fired a consolation goal for Antrim midway through the second half.