When Donegal hammered Armagh 2-11 to 0-8 in the Ulster SFC quarter-final two weeks ago, Rory Gallagher tried to rain on the parade.
The Donegal manager played down the victory at the Athletic Grounds and while some around them were perhaps losing the run of themselves, Gallagher was wily enough to focus on the job in hand.
Armagh, Gallagher noted, were plying their trade in the last year in Division Three of the Allianz League. Derry, we were told, would be a different proposition.
And so it proved.
Brian McIver, the Derry manager, had an astute knowledge of the workings of the Donegal machine.
After all, this was the man who plucked a 17-year-old from Glenswilly called Michael Murphy and threw him in for a championship debut in 2007.
On Saturday, McIver’s side were well-drilled and maintained the shape they’d been occasionally showcasing all spring.
Donegal had to dig deep but there’s a familiarity with Gallagher’s side in what they need to do.
It was enough in Clones. Just. Donegal won 1-9 to 0-10.
“It was a wild intense game, and when you’re under that kind of pressure, you have to try and rely on making good decisions, but that doesn’t always happen like that, you know,” Gallagher said afterwards.
“We’re just relieved to get through by two points, because it was just in the balance the whole way through.
“We were far from being at our best. Fair play to Derry, they made it difficult for us, which we expected coming into the game.”
In the end, there were only a handful of differentials. Marty O’Reilly’s goal, so similar to the one in Armagh, was telling.
And for all the talk of the Donegal collective, it took a few flashes of individual magic from Murphy and his stablemate Colm McFadden.
“Colm got a great score, Michael got two great scores and the goal was a great score as well,” Gallagher added.
Following the bruising 1-13 to 1-10 win over Tyrone in the preliminary round and then the easier than expected victory in Armagh, Saturday’s triumph means Donegal are in a fifth successive Ulster final.
It’s been a rocky road but Donegal are still on the tracks. Monaghan, familiar foes from the last two provincial showpieces, lie in wait back in Clones on Sunday, July 19.
“It’s all about winning at this level,” Gallagher added, “We are in a ferociously hard side of the draw. Derry had a great chance to get ready for us.
“Listen, we’re delighted to get through, but we know that we have an awful lot to work on. Every single day, we’re beatable. We know that we’re only as good as how we work. We have to work hard. It was far from a perfect performance, but I couldn’t fault our workrate or effort.”