Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager, agreed.
“Of the four games we played, that was probably the poorest we played, and in the other three matches, we didn’t get any points,” he said. “But that’s just the way football goes, at times.”
With the threat of relegation looming large in the Ballyshannon sunshine, it was a must-win for both teams, but Donegal’s guests will wonder how the gods seemed to be contriving against them.
Having scored the opening goal, in the sixth minute, Daniel Flynn, the Kildare full-forward, thought he had repeated the feat — again from a Ben McCormack assist — three minutes later, only to be penalised for a square ball.
Then, in the 16th minute, came another talking point, when Eoin Doyle, Kildare’s centre-back, was given a second yellow card for not wearing a gumshield. The Lilywhites’ skipper had signalled to the bench, only to instinctively catch a kick-out from goalkeeper, Mark Donnellan.
Cian O’Neill, the Kildare manager, wasn’t impressed, afterwards. “Absolutely disgraceful,” he said. “If it was a black card or a blood sub, he shouldn’t have restarted the game, until the player went off the pitch. No-one knew he was being told to go off.
“Eoin sprinted over to the line and called: ‘I need to get a gum shield’. The linesman was right beside it. He called for the gum shield. He went for the ball.
“Even a child, at four years of age, will know what you do when a ball is kicked to you — your reaction is to go for the ball. He caught it while he was still running over to us. The ref didn’t realise he had already given him a yellow card.”
Both teams found scores hard to come by in an awkward breeze that initially favoured Kildare. Three points down in the latter stages of the first-half, Donegal belatedly showed sign of injecting some spark into the occasion, when Patrick McBrearty put over two points.
For the home team, it could’ve been a lot worse at half-time, and they went in just a single point in arrears, 0-5 to 1-3.
Donegal only use Fr Tierney Park once a year, but they still possessed something of a local knowledge and had Michael Murphy starting for the first time this season.
The Donegal captain levelled matters and, with Jamie Brennan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Niall O’Donnell and McBrearty all finding their range, Donegal were 0-10 to 1-4 in front in the 46th minute.
But as the hosts popped over point after point, Kildare had found something of a profitable niche of their own. Their direct running caused Donegal no end of problems and, in the 47th-minute, a daring raid concluded with Niall Kelly blasting home his side’s second goal to level it up again.
That pattern was essentially repeated over the next 13 minutes. Donegal kept working the umpires, with Ryan McHugh, Murphy, McBrearty and Hugh McFadden scoring, only for David Slattery to slap home Kildare’s third goal, on the hour — Donegal 0-14 Kildare 3-5.
But in the final 10 minutes, it would be Donegal who would finish the strongest. Ryan McHugh’s 65th-minute goal was the decisive score, with his long ball from the left flank deceiving everyone in the square, including Donnellan in the Kildare goal.
At the other end, though, a combination of Stephen McBrearty and Patton, in the Donegal goal, did enough to prevent Kildare scoring a goal again, this time with Keith Cribbin on the end of the move.
R McHugh (1-2), P McBrearty (0-4, 1 free), M Murphy (0-3, 1 free), H McFadden (0-2), J Brennan, O Mac Niallais, E Gallagher, N O’Donnell (0-1 each).
D Flynn (1-1), N Kelly, D Slatterty (1-0 each), K Feely (0-3, frees), K Flynn, F Conway, J Byrne (0-1 each).
S Patton; E Gallagher, Caolan Ward, S McMenamin; R McHugh, P Brennan, T McClenaghan; H McFadden, O Mac Niallais; E Doherty, L McLoone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, J Brennan.
N O’Donnell for McClenaghan (h-t), N McGee for Ward (50), S McBrearty for Brennan (55), C McGonigle for M.McHugh (60), C Thompson for Mac Niallais (64), N Mullins for O’Donnell (69).
M Donnellan; P Kelly, D Hyland, M O’Grady; C O’Donoghue, E Doyle, J Byrne; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; B McCormack, D Flynn, P Brophy.
K Flynn for O’Donoghue (h-t), D Slattery for Cribbin (55), C Healy for N.Kelly (60), F Dowling for Conway (63), M Sherry for Moolick (69).
D Gough (Meath)