Having to prepare for the Qualifiers in the month of June is something Donegal have managed to avoid since way back in 2010.
However, the defeat to Tyrone in yesterday’s Ulster Semi-final means supporters were tuned to the radio first thing on Monday morning to discover Donegal’s next opponents in the All-Ireland series.
For the players too, it’s new territory. As Ryan McHugh gathered his thoughts after emerging from the losers’ dressing room at St. Tiernach’s Park on Sunday, he said he hadn’t given a single thought to the Qualifiers or who their opponents might be.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not even sure who our options are because we weren’t even thinking about the back door,” he said.
“We were just fully concentrating on Tyrone and coming up to this game. We’ll re-evaluate this game now and see from there.”
McHugh paid credit to Tyrone for a masterful display.
“It was hugely disappointing but you have to take your hats off to Tyrone. We were beaten by the better team on the day,” he said.
“We thought we did well enough for the first ten or 15 minutes. We were in the lead but we just lost our discipline a wee bit. We weren’t getting back and we were losing the ball a wee bit up the pitch.
“We were getting caught on the counter attack and then all of a sudden you are coming into the dressing room six or seven points down. It’s a huge turnaround but we have to learn from it and learn from it very quickly.”
Donegal fans in Clones on Sunday.
Trailing by 0-12 to 0-5 at half-time, Rory Gallagher’s side needed a quick response after the change-over, but instead it was Tyrone who struck again when Tiernan McCann got their goal.
“It probably was game over,” McHugh admitted.
“Maybe even before that. We just didn’t get out of the blocks at all and from a Tyrone point of view, they probably didn’t let us.”
He added: “They were exceptional. They are a top class team. They are in the top three bracket in Ireland.
“We knew that coming up here. We knew we were going to have to be at our best to even put up a match to it and unfortunately we weren’t today and they really punished us. We will have to look back now and look at the video and look what we did wrong. The draw is on tomorrow and we’ll have to try to put it right the next day.”