Rory Gallagher urging on his team in Navan on Saturday
The overriding emotion for Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, at the final whistle after the win over Meath was happiness.
"You are always happy when you win. We knew it was going to be an awful dogfight. We knew Meath were going to be very passionate, that sort of tense occasion. But look, we didn't do enough to put distance between ourselves and Meath at any stage and it was disappointing when we scored the goal, we let them straight back in it at that stage.
"We showed a lot of inexperience, but at the same time we showed a lot of character."
Asked about the missed chances (Donegal had 12 wides), especially a number of goal chances, Gallagher felt that was one of disappointing aspects of the display.
"Yeah, we had two in the first half and then Jamie (Brennan) had one in the second half. Three goal chances and we didn't even get a point out of it. It was disappointing from our point of view. We would have expected to at least get 1-1 or 1-2 out of it or on a good day two or three goals but we left Meath hanging in and fair play to them, they showed a lot of character."
The manager felt that the team have been getting their house in order after the defeat to Tyrone.
"Our morale has been good. We have a real good team spirit. Look, it's been difficult when you lose. We have been accustomed to being in Ulster finals. We were always aware that was going to be difficult to beat Tyrone given the level of inexperience we have, but we showed a lot of character. We haven't played the best football; we have been edgy at times and we need to sharpen up in front of goals.
"Two weeks is a good amount of time. The boys will chill out tonight and a wee bit of relaxation for them and we will go again," he said.
Gallagher knew what to expect from Meath as he had worked with the McEntees at St. Brigid's in Dublin.
"We were expecting a really tough tussle. I would know Gerry (McEntee) really, really well. Myself and himself were lucky to win a Leinster club a long time ago. I would know Andy as well and I knew what they would bring to it. Meath would have a huge expectancy in the county, that tradition on a Saturday evening with a massive crowd here, they would be very vibrant.
"We have a very inexperienced group of players. I think at times we showed a lack of maturity. We are in a better position today than we were three weeks ago. We're showing that we are really competitive.
"We have played 11 games this year. We have only lost three of them. We lost to Tyrone, we lost to Kerry and we lost to Mayo. We would be pleased with the direction we are going. Yes, we are not the finished article, far from it. But if we take our chances we would make life easier for ourselves."
Asked if Donegal were a better side now, he was hesitant. "Look, time will tell. Tyrone are in the top three or four by anyone's stretch. We have an opportunity now to build, Longford, Meath and whoever comes out of the hat the next day. More than likely it will be a step up. We have a very ambitious team and we know it is not going to be easy, whoever we get."
But the one thing that the manager was happy about was that the young Donegal players are getting games to help their development.
"At the start of the year Jason McGee hadn't played for Donegal. Now he has played 12 or 13 times. You had Caolan Ward who hadn't really played for Donegal; Ciaran Thompson, Jamie Brennan, Michael Carroll, boys like that; Kieran Gillespie, Eoghan Bán (Gallagher). Now they played 10, 12, 13 times. I thought Jason McGee was excellent today. The more experience those boys get the better," said Gallagher, who also praised 'keeper, Mark Anthony McGinley and Eoin McHugh.
"They are not perfect, far from it, but they are well aware that there are fellas who ended up with very good careers for Donegal who started with tough days. Tough days is part of intercounty football."
But when it came to the crunch, it was a player who is both young and experienced which stepped up to the plate. Patrick McBrearty's seven points and especially his winning point was special.
"Patrick has played for Donegal for a long time and when we needed him today, he stood up and showed the quality player he is, because he was being tightly marked," said Rory.
"Patrick is football mad. I know him now for seven or eight years. He just lives for football. He kinda had to do two pre-seasons but he got himself into good shape. He has worked exceptionally hard. Whan Patrick is playing football he is happy and he showed great leadership," said Rory, who also praised Ryan McHugh for his part in the Donegal victory. The manager said that he moved McHugh up to the half-forward in the second half to give him a bit more freedom.
"They are capable of great moments, all those lads, Michael, Ryan, Jamie, Patrick. They are battling and their willingness to die for Donegal is a great thing."
Asked about the disallowed goal which Hugh McFadden palmed home in the first half, Gallagher said:
"Look, I don't see them disallowed too often," said Gallagher, who felt Donegal didn't get the rub of the green at times. "But look, we'll see things one way. It's difficult but you have to get on with it," he said, agreeing that there was an advantage given in the second half which wasn't called back and Meath went up the field to point.
"Look, it's difficult, but if we had scored our chances, we wouldn't have been talking about it; we would have been well ahead," said Gallagher, who felt the Meath free at the end was a free. "Look, the guy who gave it away looked at the bench. He knew he shouldn't have done it," said Gallagher laughing.
"We have four (championship) games under our belt now. We will need to improve if we are to get a sixth," he said
"It's the hand we are dealt. The games are coming thick and fast. It is all about getting over the line.
"We have two weeks now to get ready and go again.