The last time Donegal played in an Ulster final as All-Ireland champions back in 1993 David Walsh remembers the long drive home to Ballintra.
Brian McEniff’s team were defeated by Derry 0-8 to 0-6 in one of the most controversial matches ever to be played at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.
In the days before the back door offered a second chance, Donegal lost their Ulster and All-Ireland titles on a quagmire of a pitch against a Derry side who would usurp them as champions of both the province and the country.
The match was effectively a lottery, with some even claiming it wouldn’t go down to a bounce of the ball because the ball couldn’t even bounce in the puddles.
“It was terrible,” Walsh, who was then only 11 then, recalled this week.
“People always say nowadays that the weather’s away to hell but if you look back at 1993, you’ll not get much more than that.
“It was a whole mess. There was no bounce. We got home really disappointed and covered from head to toe in muck.
“There was a lot of clothes that went straight to the dump that Monday morning!”
The current heatwave means conditions will bein stark contrast to 20 years ago.
Walsh’s contemporaries now have the chance to do what the team of 1993 failed to and in doing so justifiably lay claim to being the best team the county has ever produced.
Jim McGuinness’s team are on the verge of a third successive Ulster title, while thoughts of reclaiming Sam Maguire can wait for now.
“The thing about Jim is, he’s just so genuine,” Walsh said of the manager who has transformed the footballing fortunes in the county.
“He has brought something to the squad that we can all work hard for. He’s a Donegal man that wants his players to do the best they can do when they’re pulling on those Donegal jerseys.”
For a county that hadn’t seen the glint of the Anglo-Celt Cup in 19 years, McGuinness’s Donegal are now frequent visitors to Clones.
Monaghan, as it’s their home venue, are as well but it’s 25 years since their last victory in the province.
“It’s a bit like us in 2011,” Walsh said of Sunday’s opponents. “Back then everything was all fresh to us and Jim had just taken over.
“People weren’t really sure of us until we beat Derry in that year’s Ulster final.
“That was our first win in Ulster since 1992 and we had some expectancy last year against Down.
“Monaghan will bring with them huge heart and determination and will leave absolutely everything out there on the pitch. They’ve some great players and are a strong team.
“Jim has said we have to match that if we really want to win this game.”
The journey Donegal have been under since McGuinness took charge three years ago this month has been an exciting one.
But Walsh, just like his manager, is content to follow the same path that has taken Donegal to where they are.
“There’s a lot of talk about three-and-a-row,” Walsh said.
“Jim always talks about the next game and the next game only. That feeds through the panel and now all we are looking at is Monaghan.
“Ulster medals don’t come easy to anyone so we have to grab the opportunity with both hands. We don’t talk about failure. We train to win and will do all in our power to win on Sunday.”