Donegal were edged out by a slightly better Roscommon side in a mediocre affair at the narrow confines of Athleague.
Tir Chonaill badly missed the combative presence of Jamesie Donnelly and Christopher McDermott and the finishing skills of Lee Henderson in a mtah played in swirling wind on a bumpy pitch.
Roscommon were minus ace marksman Gerry Fallon but local Athleague lad Robbie Fallon was the Rossie hero, as he hit the crucial winning point in the 65th minute.
On balance, Roscommon deserved this narrow victory as, despite only having three subs, they were the hungrier side throughout and also managed to strike 11 wides to Donegal’s six.
Donegal recovered well from an early Roscommon goal but showed little of the fluency and finish they showed in their march to victory in the National League.
Of course it is not all doom and gloom for Ray Durack’s men as they are still in this competition.
But the lack of power and penetration up front must be a worry for Durack who must plan for the future without McDermott and Henderson.
However Tir Chonaill relied far too much on Setanta marksman Kevin Campbell who finished up with nine points with seven of that total coming from frees.
The remainder of the forwards had an off day with the exception of centre forward Enda McDermott who weighed in with 1-1.
Danny Cullen dropped back and played an excellent role as sweeper as Durack introduced Aodh Ruadh midfielder Chris Kilgannon and Setanta’s Michael McGee.
The reshuffled Donegal side were under the cosh for long periods in the opening half and only turned over leading by 1-9 to 1-7 after referee John O’Meara mistakenly blew the match up on 30 minutes with Roscommon leading by 1-7 to 1-6.
Kevin Campbell hit three frees in the remaining minutes.
The Rossies had a real tonic after just 40 seconds when a lightning move involving Robbie Fallon and Hugh Rooney finished with Tipperary native Ronan O’Meara smashing the sliothar to the net.
Tir Chonaill did not panic and replied with a goal of their own when Enda McDermott flicked a long range free to the Rossies net.
Exchanges were very close for the rest of the match that effectively turned into a battle of the freetakers as Fallon and Campbell swapped scores.
Roscommon had the breeze in the second half but could only manage a total of five points with four coming from the stick of Fallon.
Donegal’s statistic is much starker as they only managed a total of two points something which will worry Ray Durack.
It looked good for Donegal when a well struck Campbell free put them into a 1-11 to1-10 lead ten minutes from time.
But they were frequently beaten back by a very determined Roscommon side whose persistence was finally rewarded at the death.
A deserved win for Roscommon, but Donegal will need to learn to cope without Henderson and McDermott, but the return of Jamesie Donnelly will be most welcome.
Roscommon: Padraig Dolan; Ian Delaney, Mark McLoughlin, Darren Fallon; Cathal Kelly; Shane Curley (0-1f), Cathal Dolan; Thomas Seale, Michael Kelly; Cormac Kelly (0-2) Hugh Rooney, David Dolan (0-1); Robbie Fallon (0-8f), Ronan O’Meara (1-0) Cillian Egan. Subs; David Flaherty for Hugh Rooney (63), Nace Thornton for Cillian Egan (65)
Yellow cards: Cathal Dolan (47),
Donegal: Paul Burns; Martin McGrath, Justin McGee, Shane Gallen; Christopher McDermott, Joe Boyle, Paul Sheridan; Ronan McDermott, Danny Cullen; Ciaran Matthewson, Enda McDermott (1-2), Sean McVeigh (0-1) Kevin Campbell(0-86f) Paddy Hannigan, Michael McGee. Subs; Eugene Organ for Michael McGee (47)
Yellow cards: Joe Boyle (18), Justin McGee (27), Sean McVeigh (44), Paddy Hannigan (53),
Referee: John Keane (Galway).