But it’s still about the league and, whether they talk it up or not, both sides remain in with a shout of making the final next month, with just one series of fixtures left this coming Sunday.
Donegal go west to Mayo and Monaghan have a chance to do what nobody has done in the last 35 games: Beat Dublin.
There are different types of draws, of course, and the one that Monaghan managed yesterday will have pleased them more than Donegal.
Rory Gallagher’s team had restricted their visitors to just two second-half points and turned a one-point interval deficit into a three-point lead as “a minimum of four minutes’ injury-time” was announced and some might have even headed for the exit gates.
Michael Murphy’s positioning this season — with Donegal a little lighter around the middle with Rory Kavanagh, Neil Gallagher, and Christy Toye all having stepped aside and Odhran MacNiallais taking a break — has been deeper than usual.
But the Donegal skipper still managed seven points from his libero position at the base of midfield and it goes without saying he’s a huge influence on how Gallagher sets out his team.
Substitute Patrick McBrearty had just scored his second point and Murphy lamped over a booming free to put the hosts 1-11 to 0-11 ahead.
By the 70th minute Conor McManus had been restricted to just one pointed free all afternoon and with Donegal three points to the good, it looked as though the home side had done enough to post the win that would send them to the top of Division 1.
However, Donegal substitute Martin McElhinney pulled Darren Hughes by the shirt and referee David Gough awarded a penalty. McManus then did the rest as he sent Donegal goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley the wrong way.
“When you’re in a position to win the game and you don’t win it, of course it’s disappointing,” said Donegal manager Gallagher.
“A draw is some consolation but overall, I didn’t think our performance was that great, albeit we were in a position to win the game at the end.”
It was certainly a point gained for Monaghan, who went in at the break a point up at 0-9 to 1-5 but having had the advantage of a significant first-half wind.
Rory Beggan, the Monaghan goalkeeper, had to stop an Eoin McHugh slap at goal right on the stroke of half-time.
Jack McCarron was in fine form with six first-half scores, while the only goal of the contest had come on five minutes through a rasping effort from Michael Carroll of Donegal after fine approach play by the galloping Ryan McHugh and Eoghan Ban Gallagher.
Murphy and Ciaran Thompson both scored points in the first 37 seconds of the second half as Rory Gallagher’s team edged in front. But Donegal would kick nine second-half wides and lost Ryan McHugh to what was later said to be ankle ligament damage, while Ryan McAnespie from Monaghan was taken to hospital with concussion.
Donegal, with McBrearty coming off the bench, seemed to have more gears and for 21 minutes in part two, Monaghan didn’t manage a score. Eventually they got one from Shane Carey and when McManus pointed a free on 59 minutes, it was his first score of the game.
Three points up, Donegal were almost home. But having penalised Neil McGee for three off-the-ball fouls in the first half and then both goalkeepers for kickouts that weren’t deemed long enough, referee Gough had shown he was eagle-eyed if nothing else.
McElhinney was black-carded for his tug and McManus slotted home to gain an unlikely draw for Monaghan, whose doggedness had to be commended for keeping them with touching distance.
M Murphy (0-7, 4 frees); M Carroll (1-0); P McBrearty (0-2); C Thompson, E McHugh (0-1 each)
J McCarron (0-6, 4 frees); C McManus (1-1, 1-0 pen, 1 free); M Bannigan, K Hughes, O Duffy, S Carey (0-1 each).
MA McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, E Doherty; R McHugh, P Brennan, E Gallagher; M Carroll, M Murphy; C Thompson; C Mulligan, M O’Reilly; J Brennan, H McFadden, E McHugh (0-1).
M McHugh for P Brennan (33), Ki Gillespie for McGee (half-time), P McBrearty for J Brennan (43), K Lacey for Mulligan (50), M McElhinney for R McHugh (60), M Langan for Thompson (63), McElhinney (70, back card).
R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; R McAnespie, N McAdam, K O’Connell; D Hughes, K Hughes; D Ward, O Duffy, G Doogan; M Bannigan, J McCarron, C McManus.
S Carey for McAnespie (7), C McCarthy for Ward (35 black card), D Malone for Bannigan (42), V Corey for McAdam (46), J Mealiff for Duffy (53, black card), T Kerr for Doogan (68).
David Gough (Meath).