DONEGAL staged a second half comeback in the Ulster SHC clash with Down at O’Donnell Park but it wasn’t enough against the favourites.
The nine point margin of victory at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny probably flattered the Down men, and Donegal can take heart from seeing themselves progress.
The Christy Ring semi-finalists staved off a determined comeback from Donegal before booking their place in the next round.
The visitors powered to a commanding 1-12 to 0-06 interval lead with Aidan Clarke claiming the only goal of the opening half.
Clarke’s 10th-minute strike from 20 metres out gave Down a 1-05 to 0-02 advantage. Ciaran Matheson and Stephen Boyle registered Donegal’s early points.
Lee Henderson also helped to keep Donegal in touch in first half, but Gareth Johnston, Aaron O’Prey, Kevin McGarry and Brendan Ennis chipped in with points for Down.
Clarke netted his side’s second goal immediately after the restart, but Donegal scored 1-05 without reply in a productive 15-minute spell as they mounted a comeback.
Matheson, Henderson and Boyle all hit points with Boyle also netting a goal to leave the scoreline at 2-12 to 1-11 with 12 minutes remaining.
Nonetheless, this more experienced Down team wrestled back control late on with Johnston (1-06) firing home the Mourne men’s third goal. Scott Nicholson was also among the visitors’ scorers in the closing minutes.