There was a rip roaring start to the National Football League with Kildare proved just too strong for Donegal in Croke Park.
A mistake by Paul Durcan in the Donegal goal to allow a Johnny Doyle centre slip through his grasp was one of the deciding issues, but overall the Leinster side deserved their victory.
The difference in fitness was evident in the opening half as Kildare dominated possession and they used the aeriel route to Tomas O’Connor to unsettle Donegal.
Even though the All-Ireland champions had the opening three points from Michael Murphy (2) and Patrick McBrearty, Kildare slowly got going and a goal from O’Connor, who reacted quickest when a Mikey Conway free came back off a post, saw Kieran McGeeney’s side ahead for the first time on 17 minutes, 1-2 to 0-3.
Slowly they moved further ahead with Johnny Doyle clinical and Niall Kelly also hitting a great score and by half-time they were 1-7 to 0-5 ahead, thanks to further points from Brian Flanagan and Padraig O’Neill.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Kildare going seven clear before Michael Murphy hauled his side back into the contest to leave just a point between them with 11 minutes left.
Then came Durcan’s mistake on 64 minutes but two minutes later Dermot Molloy had a goal at the other end to set up a grandstand finish, but Kildare held out.
Apart from the excellent Doyle, Kildare had standout performers in Peter Kelly and Niall Kelly, while apart from Murphy, Rory Kavanagh and Anthony Thompson were best for Donegal.
Scorers - Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-9,5f; Dermot Molloy 1-1; Patrick McBrearty 0-2,1f; Mark McHugh 0-1
Kildare: Johnny Doyle 1-5,2f; Tomas O’Connor 1-0; Niall Kelly 0-3; Mikey Conway 0-2,1f, Padraig O’Neill, Brian Flanagan, Paddy Brophy, Eoghan O’Flaherty 0-1 each.
Donegal: P Durcan; D Walsh, N NcGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; M Boyle, M Murphy, R Bradley; C McFadden, R Wherity, P McBrearty. Subs., D Molloy for McFadden 11; M McHugh for M Boyle 31; D McLaughlin for McGlynn ht.
Kildare: S Connolly; O Lyons, P Kelly, H McGrillen; E Bolton, M Foley, M Conway; G White, P O’Neill; B Flanagan, N Kelly, D Flynn; S Johnston, T O’Connor, J Doyle. Subs., P Brophy for Johnston 55; E Doyle for Bolton 59; E O’Flaherty for White 62
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)