Eoghan Bán Gallagher on the ball for Donegal against Meath Picture: Thomas Gallagher
The nine point win flattered Donegal but they finished well to defeat Meath in the first game in the Super 8s in Ballybofey.
Meath put it up to Donegal and it was only in the final quarter that they finally put their stamp on the game in the very hot conditions. Indeed, Meath turned a five point deficit into a one point lead as the game entered the final quarter, but Donegal will be happy with the way they closed out the game.
They can thank Patrick McBrearty, who marked his 100th game for Donegal in style, Ryan McHugh and captain Michael Murphy, who showed his leadership when it was needed.
Meath showed early intent with Cillian O'Sullivan pointing after just 39 seconds and the pony-tailed Meath man gave Donegal and his man marker Odhran McFadden Ferry plenty of problems early on.
Donegal were back in front on four minutes with points from Jamie Brennan, Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy, all good individual scores.
Bryan Menton replied for Meath. Shaun Patton's kick-out found Jason McGee and he was on the end of the move to kick over, while Niall O'Donnell set up Jamie McBrennan to push Donegal 0-5 to 0-2 ahead on 10 minutes.
But Meath stuck to their task with Cillian O'Sullivan and Mickey Newman cutting the deficit. Ryan McHugh and James Conlon traded scores, Meath almost in for a goal.
But Donegal struck on the kick-out on 25 minutes. Ciaran Thompson went long and Conor McGill missed the bounce to let Patrick McBrearty with a free run to goal and he celebrated his 100th game for Donegal with a piledriver past Andrew Colgan.
Niall O'Donnell added a point but Mickey Newman (free) and Bryan McMahon cut the lead to three points.
Michael Murphy was on the end of a good Donegal move to point and Michael Langan pushed Donegal five clear with time almost up. However, Bryan McMahon (from close to the sideline) had the final score of the half for the visitors.
Half-time: Donegal 1-9, Meath 0-8.
James McEntree had a Meath point on the resumption on 20 seconds and they almost had a goal with an effort from Cillian O'Sullivan dropping short. James Conlon got a touch but it came back off the post. Patrick McBrearty converted from a free and from play but just before that Gavin McCoy had the ball in the Donegal net but it was disallowed for a square ball.
But Meath had momentum and when Donal Keogan cut through he was hauled down and Mickey Newman converted from the penalty spot to cut the lead to two.
That lead was wiped out by the 48th minute as Brian McMahon and Bryan Menton struck for excellent points. And Meath hit the lead for the first time since the first minute when Darragh Campion fired over on 54 minutes.
Shane Gallagher was black carded for a tackle on Eoin McHugh in full flight and Patrick McBrearty got Donegal back level on 56 minutes. And Donegal were back in front as they punished a poor kick out, Ryan McHugh pointing, but almost immediately Shane McEntee fired over at the other end as the game opened up.
Jamie Brennan fired over with a goal at his mercy at the other end but also fired over. But then Donegal took control again with points from Oisin Gallen, Patrick McBrearty (free) and with his right, a rare occurrence.
Donegal were to add a point from a '45' as the game entered added time and then Frank McGlynn sent Oisin Gallen through for a second goal which he took with some aplomb. Eoin McHugh added a late point which gave the scoreline a flattering look.
Eoin McHugh also had a goal chance in the final minutes before Gallen's finish, but his effort was blocked.
Donegal had nine different scorers which was a positive but they also have plenty to work on ahead of their next game in Croke Park on Sunday next against Kerry.
Scorers - Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 1-6,3f; Michael Murphy 0-3,one '45'; Oisin Gallen 1-1; Jamie Brennan 0-3; Ryan McHugh 0-2; Jason McGee, Niall O'Donnell, Michael Langan, Eoin McHugh 0-1 each.
Meath: Mickey Newman 1-2, 1-0pen,1f; Bryan McMahon 0-3; Bryan Menton, Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2 each; Shane McEntee, James McEntree, Darragh Campion, James Conlon 0-1 each
DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Paul Brennan, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh, Odhrán McFadden Ferry, Eoghan Bán Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson, Niall O'Donnell, Jamie Brennan; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Michael Langan.
Subs: Dáire Ó Baoill for P Brennan 43; Eoin McHugh for Thompson 48; Oisin Gallen for O'Donnell 48; Frank McGlynn for J McGee 60; Eamonn Doherty for O McFadden Ferry 68; Caolan Ward for McMenamin 70
MEATH: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Ethan Devine, Bryan McMahon, James McEntee; Cillian O'Sullivan, Michael Newman, James Conlon.
Subs: Shane Walsh for Conlon 43; Darragh Campion for Devine 45; Sean Curran for S Gallagher bcard 57; Graham Reilly for McMahon 62; Adam Flanagan for S McEntee 65; Thomas O'Reilly for C O'Sullivan 69
REFEREE: Conor Lane (Cork)