Donegal were comprehensively beaten by Ulster champions Derry but came away from a sweltering MacCumhaill Park with their heads held high after a much improved performance from the Ulster Championship.
Aidan O’Rourke’s side built on their second-half performance against Clare with a gutsy display against a side which could cause ripples at the latter end of the championship.
Donegal…. 1-15 Derry….3-14
Donegal will probably not be in that shape-up come that time but this performance was sprinkled with guts, effort and honesty.
Ultimately they lacked composure in front of the target despite the wonderful Oisin Gallen kicking a tremendous nine point haul out of his side 18 points.
Indeed the MacCumhaills man, despite being on the losing side, was awarded the Man of the Match award after brushing aside the threat of Derry’s man-marker Christ McCaigue.
The first half was a tale of two sides and their chances with Donegal converting just six of sixteen efforts in the opening half.
Donegal laboured to make and take their chances while Derry appeared to takes their scores in an easier manner.
Benny Heron and the impressive Shane McGuigan were causing the Donegal defence all sorts of problems while the classy Brendan Rogers continued to carve out the spaces to set up his forwards.
Rogers had to clear off his own line when Jason McGee perhaps should have scored from close range in what could have been a very telling score.
There was no doubting the home side’s hunger and workrate with Aidan O’Rourke’s charges enjoying 60% of the first-half possession.
Their huge press from Derry’s kickouts was causing Derry all sorts of frustration.
At the other end, Shaun Patton’s huge kickouts had Derry on the run as he put in attacking bombs into’s Derry defence.
Oisin Gallen worked his socks off up front alongside Conor O’Donnell with Gallen registering four first half-points albeit three of those from frees.
Donegal’s other scores came from the boot of Ciaran Thompson and another from play by O’Donnnell.
Derry managed to go in 0-9 to 0-6 ahead but Donegal knew they were still in with a great shout in front of a crowd of 8,253 on a sweltering day if they kept their momentum.
The big question everyone was asking at half-time was if sharp-shooter Paddy McBrearty might be sprung from the bench early in the second half to register those vital scores.
Donegal settled quickly and put pressure on Derry from the restart as they hunted to reduce the deficit.
Thompson narrowed the Derry margin to just two points with a fantastic score and it looked like Donegal were mounting a comeback.
But Derry had different ideas as they rattled the back of the Donegal net in the 45th minute to give the Oak Leaf men a five point advantage at 1-11 to 0-9.
Oisin Gallen brought the difference back to four points with another fine point and there was speculation that McBrearty was being warmed up on the sideline.
Benny Heron should realistically have ended the game as a contest in the 51st minute when a poor kickout from Patton saw the same player deny the Derry forward with a great save.
However, two tremendous marked conversions from Oisin Gallen reduced the difference to just three points in the 55th minute.
There was a huge roar for the arrival of team captain Paddy McBrearty a minute later. Could he haul Donegal back to level pegging?
Derry answered the McBrearty threat just a minute later as Gareth McKinless broke through the Donegal defence to allow substitute Lachlann Murray to palm into an open goal.
The game was well and truly ended as a contest in the 66th minute when Caolan McGonagle had his pocket picked as he tried to feed Oisin Gallen.
Derry played the ball into Padraig McGrogan who only had one thing in mind as he blasted past Patton to make it an eight point game at 3-15 to 0-15.
Donegal managed to put a respectable finish to the game when sub Rory O’Donnell was put through by Thompson to net and bring it back to a five point game.
Donegal: Shaun Patton , Mark Curran, Brendan McCole , Caolan McColgan , Caolan Ward , Eoghan Ban Gallagher , Odhran Doherty, Caolan McGonagle, Jason McGee , Daire Ó Baoill , Jamie Brennan, Ciaran Thompson , Hugh McFadden , Oisin Gallen , Conor O’Donnell .
Derry: Odhran Lynch, Christopher McKaigue, Eoghan McEvoy, Conor McCluskey, Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Padraig McGrogan, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Niall Toner , Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul , Shane McGuigan, Benny Heron.
Referee: Brendan Cawley ( Kildare).