Monaghan captain Eoin Lennon is not dissimilar to Donegal players prior to 2011, chances at winning titles but ultimate heartache.
The Latton clubman has been one of the best midfielders in the country for over a decade, making his debut for the Farney men in 2002, but there is no Ulster medal for his efforts.
He has looked on in recent years as Donegal came to the top and overturned Tyrone and Armagh, something they had been trying to do for years.
“In fairness to Donegal, they have changed the way the game is played. To their credit they have raised the bar again and it’s up to every player and every manager to adjust now. They have left it very hard to play against them.
“Against Down, I presume they would not be happy with the way they played that day so I suppose they will be looking to up their performance again.”
Have Donegal any weaknesses? “The Down match, one thing you have to take into consideration was the weather conditions. It was a real slippy, wet day and I suppose that took away from Donegal’s game. But in looking at it, a team that plays a mirror image of how they play, they find most difficult to play against. And when you have 10, 12, 15 men behind the ball, it’s going to be difficult, very hard to score. I suppose that’s the best way to play against them,” said Eoin.
When asked if that’s what Monaghan would be doing on Sunday, he said: “It’s no secret. I suppose Cavan set up like that; Antrim set up like that and unfortunately that’s the way football has gone. Jim McGuinness has always said that it’s all about the results. I know our matches against Antrim and Cavan have been dire affairs to watch; it hasn’t been pretty to watch, but for us it was about getting the job done.”
Asked about the changes to the game, around midfield: “It’s a massive difference. You find a lot of times, and I’m playing 11 or 12 years, that if you catch a ball, you could bang it in straight away. There was loads of space to do that. But now, maybe in the last 10, 15 minutes when a few gaps open up, you might get a chance to do that, but it has definitely changed. There’s a lot more runners involved, not so much high fielders anymore, more dynamic players.
“It’s about getting it out of the traffic as quickly as possible.”
Has been envious of Donegal and their recent success: “To come from where they have, beaten by 10 points up in Crossmaglen. You have to admire them for turning it around. It is up to the rest of us now to catch up with them and try to match them.
“We will be going in as serious underdogs. You don’t forget when you get beaten in an Ulster final and we will be trying to use our defeats. That day against Tyrone we left ourselves wide open at the back and Tyrone ran right through us. We certainly can’t do that (against Donegal).
“Malachy (O’Rourke) has a great pedigree. He worked with us in the club (Latton) in 2001 and that’s when we got to know him. He is a smart manager and in touch with the game. I think he is a good people person and he seems to get the most out of players.
“We actually played against Glenswilly in the Ulster Club that year when he was working with us,” said Eoin.
The Monaghan captain is hoping that the recent disappointments that the Farney county have had on Ulster final day will count. They lost just by two points to Tyrone in 2006 but then suffered a heavy defeat to the Red Hand men two years later.
Eoin feels that they missed out in 2006. “That was our best year. We gave Tyrone a serious head start in the game but we came back well and played well and I can still picture the ball that Vinny Corey struck just over the bar.
“Yeah, we were close, but unfortunately in 2010 everybody built us up, saying this is your one and we didn’t perform at all and were wiped off the pitch.
“We had a couple of good years. We didn’t get any real success as regards silverware but we were fighting with the best and we were playing well at the time. Hopefully that experience we have from losing those two finals will stand to us now on Sunday.
In the last few seasons, though, the fortunes of Monaghan have dipped quite alarmingly.
“We had two very disappointing years there, going from Division One to Division Three. We said this year, that was our first goal, to get out of Division Three.
“Thankfully we done that. We needed a new voice and thankfully, Malachy (O’Rourke) has brought that freshness to us,” said Lennon, who is hoping to at last get his hands on that famous piece of silverware