The old format, which involved a two-legged first round, was scrapped in favour of an opening round containing four groups of four teams played out as a league and one team relegated. Two of the four teams in each group advanced to the quarter-finals after each have played the others once.
Teams finishing bottom of their group played two relegation semi-finals. The losing relegation semi-final teams met in the relegation final. The losing team was relegated to the Donegal Intermediate Football Championship to be replaced either by the Intermediate Championship winning team or the team finishing seventh in the All-County League Division Two. The match schedule was released in March 2013 and matches began over the June Bank Holiday weekend.
Donegal captain Michael Murphy begged the Donegal County Board to reconsider the scheduling of the Donegal Senior Football Championship as his team set out to defend the Sam Maguire Cup. Murphy described it as "probably not ideal from our situation" and despaired over "the hand we're dealt with" but said he would "like them to look after us in that way". They didn't.
The draw for the quarter-finals took place on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on 9 July upon the completion of the group stage. All four group winners from the first round were defeated at the quarter-final stage, including defending champions Naomh Adhamhnáin.
Ahead of the final Glenswilly player and Donegal captain Michael Murphy was named Ireland captain for the 2013 International Rules Series, creating a dilemma for the young pup and giving the Donegal County Board a headache due a fixture clash. The Donegal County Board ultimately decided not to move the final. Murphy did not captain Glenswilly - this honour fell to James Pat McDaid.Séamus Coleman attended the final.
20 October 2013
Na Cealla Beaga
2-6 - 3-19
Referee: I Molloy (Glenties)
Man of the Match: Michael Murphy
H McFadden 1-3 (3fs), C Murrin 1-0, D Conwell, B Boyle, B Faherty 0-1 each
^"Donegal Senior Championship Review". Highland Radio. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. "St.Eunan's, Malin, Ardara, McCumhaills, Kilcar and Glenswilly have all progressed while the big guns of St. Michael's, Four Masters and Naomh Conaill are included in the sides who have failed to reach the last eight."