Down boss McCartan hails Rodgers influence
Down left Ballybofey on Saturday night much the happier as they retained their top-of-the-table position and also set down a marker for the championship clash between the counties in late May.
In a very poor opening half, wides were more common than scores and the home side were fortunate to be a point to the good at the break, 0-5 to 0-4.
The second half was much more competitive with the Clarkes, Martin and John, and Benny Coulter pushing Down four points clear. But with Colm McFadden to the fore, Donegal staged a recovery that had them level at 0-11 each with just minutes left.
Both sides had goal chances during the half with Gareth Concarr denied at point-blank range by Declan Alder, while Paul Durcan made a great save to deny Coulter.
Just when it seemed as if the points would be shared, John Clarke stepped up to the mark and Down made sure in added time with a point from Peter Fitzpatrick.
Down were deserving winners, led superbly by captain Ambrose Rodgers at midfield, and Down manager James McCartan was glad to have him back on board.
"Ambrose is a good player. He had a very serious injury, which looked at one stage as being life-threatening, but he seems to be glad to be back and he is relishing the captaincy," said McCartan.
"It was a tough battle. We certainly treated as if it was a championship match. I suppose the first half wasn't a great spectacle but it certainly heated up in the second half."
For Donegal manager John Joe Doherty, however, it was a disappointing end. "We were level with a minute to go in normal time and it was disappointing we didn't at least hold on," he said.
As for being a dress rehearsal for the championship, Doherty said: "Down have laid down a marker here and they will be raging hot favourites for the championship, but we'll cope with that."
Scorers -- Down: B Coulter, M Clarke 0-3 (0-2f) each, J Clarke 0-2, K McKernan, A Rodgers, D Hughes, P McComiskey, P Fitzpatrick 0-1 each. Donegal: C McFadden 0-4 (0-1f), M Murphy 0-3 (0-2f), N Gallagher 0-2, A Thompson, M Maguire 0-1 each.
Down -- D Alder; D McCartan, B McArdle, D Rafferty; K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey; A Rodgers, K King; D Hughes, M Clarke, S Kearney; P McComiskey, J Clarke, B Coulter. Subs: P Fitzpatrick for King (64), C Laverty for McComiskey (66).
Donegal -- P Durcan; S Boyle, N McGee, K Lacey; M Maguire, A Thompson, K Cassidy; B Monaghan, N Gallagher; D Walsh, C Dunne, E Kelly; C McFadden, M Murphy, A Hanlon. Subs: G Concarr for Hanlon, L McLoone for Kelly (both 51), B Dunnion for Dunne (64).
REF -- P McEnaney (Monaghan).