Donegal were improved as they booked a place in Croke Park, but there are still some question marks after defeating a poor Laois side
The six-point win in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday evening in perfect conditions was far from perfect, but there were small nuggets of the Donegal of old appearing
Maybe we are clutching at straws, but we still know that there will must be further improvement before they face Mayo on Sunday.
The All-Ireland champions are still not firing on all cylinders and they were flattered by the final margin in front of a very healthy Donegal support in the 11,125 attendance.
There were plenty of Ulster final cobwebs for Donegal as they took a full 20 minutes to get to the pace of the game.
The opening half was really scrappy with Laois having 17 turnovers to Donegal’s 15.
It took 11 minutes for the opening score with Colm McFadden winning and pointing a free. Patrick McBrearty was getting plenty of possession but found it hard to make an impact.
Ross Munnelly levelled on 18 minutes but the Laois threat up front was minimal apart from one run from full-backMark Timmons, who pulled his shot well wide when in a good position.
In the second quarter Donegal finally began to get on top and David Walsh added a second point - although it may have been questioned if Hawkeye was available. Michael Murphy, McFadden and McBrearty had further points to leave Donegal comfortably ahead at the break, 0-5 to 0-1.
With Frank McGlynn and Ryan McHugh leading the way, Donegal looked comfortable in the third quarter but Munnelly kept chipping away and kept Laois in the game.
With eight minutes left, a Munnelly free had Laois back within two points, 0-10 to 0-8 and at that stage they were winning the midfield battle.
But the introduction of Karl Lacey steadied the Donegal ship and an outrageous point from McFadden under pressure pushed Donegal three clear and they closed out the game in style with Neil McGee even getting forward to notch a point.
Laois lost Conor Meredith to a straight red card in the final minutes after he clashed with Rory Kavanagh.
The Donegal team were taken immediately to the pool for a warm-down session and hopefully ease the pain of some hefty hits.
There is a lot to be done by Jim McGuinness before they hit Croke Park.
The McGees were back to the best in this game and Neil Gallagher and Kavanagh did well in the middle of the field.
However, without the running power of McGlynn and McHugh and the scoring threat of McBrearty and McFadden, they would have suffered defeat as captain Murphy was well below par.
McBrearty was a very good target man and also notched three great points.
The workrate of McBrearty, McHugh,McGlynn and Eamon McGee was the highpoint for Donegal and they will have to get more from other players if they are to reach the semi-final
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee (0-1), Eamon McGee; Frank McGlynn, Declan Walsh, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Neil Gallagher; David Walsh (0-1), Ryan McHugh, Ryan Bradley; Patrick McBrearty (0-3), Michael Murphy (0-2, 1f), Colm McFadden (0-6,4f). Subs., Karl Lacey for McGrath 54; Martin McElhinney for Bradley 66; Leo McLoone (0-1) for David Walsh 67; Daniel McLaughlin for Declan Walsh 71
Laois: Eoin Culliton; Paul Begley, Mark Timmons, Peter O’Leary; Darren Strong, Kieran Lillis, Padraig McMahon; Padraig Clancy, John O’Loughlin; Ross Munnelly (0-4,2f), Billy Sheehan, Colm Begley; Conor Meredith (0-1), Donal Kingston (0-2), Evan O’Carroll (0-1). Subs., Conor Boyle for Clancy 26; Stephen Attride for O’Carroll 30; Denis Booth for P Begley 42; David Conway for O’Leary 52, Colm Kelly for Sheehan 67
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)