JIM McGUINNESS admitted Donegal had not produced anywhere near their best but they still found a way to overcome a serious test from Down in yesterday's Ulster semi-final.
One of the hallmarks of All-Ireland champions is being able to respond to adversity and despite struggling for long spells, Donegal finished strong to move to within 70 minutes of a hat-trick of Ulster football titles.
"There was a lot of nonsense talked coming into the game about big winning margins but Down pushed us hard in last year's Ulster final and we knew what was coming down the track," claimed McGuinness.
"I think that's what stood to us when the game got tough in the second half.
"We kept on going, we kept finding a way.
"It's nowhere close to our best performance but we found a way to win the game and we played within the rules of the game to do that.
"Once you win the game you've always got the opportunity to fight again another day. We're thankful to be back in an Ulster final."
McGuinness revealed that Paddy McBrearty needed emergency dental treatment in Cootehill at 10 o'clock on Saturday night for a painful abscess which had bothered him for several days.
That would have explained his subdued performance, but quite a number of Donegal players struggled with Down's energy, commitment and ability to turn them over with a frequency rarely seen in the last number of years.
Peter Turley was magnificent, ripping the ball out of Donegal hands and forcing them into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Down certainly posed Donegal with a lot more problems than Tyrone did last time out.
They kept Donegal away from their own goal and at the other end carved them open, but Down were their own worst enemies with the last pass often fumbled or passed away.
Donegal scored the first four points of the game in the opening 14 minutes but Down got it back to 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
On seven occasions they got to within two points of Donegal, but that was as close as they got.
It was the long-range point scoring of Michael Murphy, and in particular Colm McFadden, which saw them over the line.
They fed on Down errors and were absolutely clinical, McFadden scoring some beauties from around 50metres with the wind advantage in the second-half.
A disconsolate Down boss James McCartan said: "I thought in the first 20 minutes our boys were believing what they'd been reading and gave them a bit too much respect.
"Once they realised we weren't going to be beat out the gate the belief started to grow and we got a wee bit of momentum.
"We felt we had them rattled at times but quality teams respond when that happens and they did that."