Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, was in no doubt that the red carding of Michael Murphy had a big influence on the result against Dublin on Saturday night.
Murphy was shown a second yellow card on 50 minutes after attempting to kick the ball as a Dublin player went to lift it.
The Donegal boss thinks Michael Murphy is being singled out and refereed differently to other players.
"I think it's crucial, any day we lose him. And to be fair, I'd be very disappointed in the first yellow card. I didn't overly see the second. He pulled on the ball, but there was another pull of a ball from a Dublin player a few minutes later and he didn't get booked.
"But as far as I could see, the first one, the Dublin player mis-soloed the ball, Michael stood his ground. There's no point in hiding behind it – Michael gets refereed, in our opinion, slightly different. We look at maybe an incident early in the Kerry game where the player got nothing, no card … just disappointed. I didn't think the incident deserved a yellow card,” said Gallagher, who was clearly referring to the fact that the Donegal captain was wrestled to the ground by Kieran Donaghy in Tralee and the Kerry player was not admonished.
Overall the Donegal manager said he was disappointed with the display.
“It was nip and tuck right up until 50-odd minutes, or maybe 60 minutes before we gave away a bad goal by our standards.
"But probably when we went six-five up, we had a lot of the play and I thought we probably should have pushed on. We lost a couple of balls; we got a ball or two blocked down, and to be fair to Dublin they probably took their chances in the end."
Asked about playing 14 and 15 players inside the ‘45’ and if people would criticise those tactics, Gallagher wasn’t too bothered.
"I think if defenders are pushing up – we didn't set out to have 15. Yes, we had quite a few men back. But I think Patrick and Leo were inside and they ended up chasing their men back. I think Dublin probably committed 15 into our half. It's not as if some of our men are going to leave their men free."
The manager said that despite the defeat, Donegal still had a chance to make the semi-final.
"One victory, I think, will leave us in the semi-final. I'm not sure of the table but I think that's the lie of the land."
Asked about the substitution of Paddy McGrath, he said: "He just picked up a minor wee strain there at some stage. That was a bit of a loss. I thought he was playing very well as well. Look, the early indications are it’s not overly serious, we'll see how he is during the week."
As for the the change of ‘keeper at the start of the game, Gallagher said: "Well, Mark Anthony was injured and he would have been very much in our plans at the start of the year. We just wanted to give him a run, and I felt that he acquitted himself quite well. A difficult situation to make your debut in Croke Park, and very pleased with Kieran Gillespie - I thought he was excellent for a young lad, he would have been in earlier in the year only he picked up a couple of knocks."
The manager also explained that Neil McGee did not start because of a minor hip injury and not because of the nose injury he picked up in Tralee.
"No, Neil has a minor hip-flexor problem and himself and Frank (McGlynn) – he has a minor hamstring. If it had been a championship day they would have been out (on the pitch) but there's no point in risking them, putting them out for four or five weeks.
"They're huge players for us. We don't like to go out any day without them, but at the same time we felt that we're in a reasonably safe position in the division and they weren't worth the risk."
When it was put to him that Dublin were getting better at dealing with a blanket defence, he agreed.
"For sure. Listen, I think they’re becoming more experienced at it. Go back to that famous game in 2011 – it's a long time ago now, there was an element of shock to it. Today, most teams put 12 or 13 men behind the ball.
"I thought they showed a lot of composure. Listen, they're a top team – they've been the top team in the country the last number of years. And, considering what they were faced against, I thought they were excellent."
We conceded 1-19 (against Roscommon), which was a lot for us; but we tried different things in the league, we felt we were in a reasonably secure position. I don't think we went out overly defensive all year. We were quite attacking in a lot of games, and we have to try different things to learn about players and to see how they fit into it. We’d Mark Anthony and Kieran Gillespie making their debuts today, and see how they would fit into different styles of play. We were missing Neil McGee as well and Eamon had a wee knock coming into the game as well, so there were a couple of things like that that influenced it,” said Gallagher.