KILDARE struck for a just-about deserved win over Donegal in Letterkenny.
The home side battled gamely, but the Lilywhites had the edge. Kildare began brightly and Johnny Byrne burst in to rifle in a fifth-minute goal.
But for the efforts of Dylan Laverty, the Donegal goalkeeper, Kildare could have been out of sight, but his saves from Leo Quinn and Evan Dempsey ensured that Donegal had hope.
Donegal were right back in it when they broke for a goal in the 22nd minute when Ronan McDermott was on hand to fire home from close range. Five minutes later, Lee Henderson fired to the roof of the net and Donegal were on a roll.
Mark Delaney kept the scoreboard ticking for Kildare, but Chris Kilgallon's goal energised Donegal, whose efforts fell just short of an upset.
Man of the Match: Mark Delaney
Scorers - Kildare: M Delaney 0-9 (5f, 1 '65), J Byrne 1-2, L Quinn 0-4, J Doran, R Casey, E Dempsey, S Gainey 0-1 each. Donegal: L Henderson 1-4 (2f, 1 '65), R McDermott 1-4, Chris Kilgallon 1-0, K Campbell 0-3 (1f), E Lynch, D Cullen 0-1 each.
KILDARE - J Sheridan 5; C Gordan 5, Marc Grace 6, J Doran 7; G Johnston 6, M Delaney 9, E O'Neill 6; M Moloney 7, P Divilly 7; R Casey 7, L Quinn 8, J Byrne 8; Bernard Deay 5, N Kenny 6, E Dempsey 7. Subs: M Purcell 6 for Deay (13), C Chan 6 for Johnston (44), S Gainey 6 for Purcell (55), R Whelan 6 for Casey.
DONEGAL - D Laverty 8; B Tourish 6, J Donnelly 7, J Downey 6; M Callaghan 7, Pauric Doherty 6, N Cleary 6; E McDermott 7, Chris Kilgallon 7; L Henderson 7, S Gillespie 6, E Lynch 6; K Campbell 7, R McDermott 8, B Lafferty 6. Subs: D Cullen 7 for Lynch (42), Ciaran Kilgallon 5 for Gillespie (68).
REF - E Hassan (Derry).