This was personal! Donegal gave one of their best displays in some time to overcome their nemesis, Monaghan, in the Ulster semi-final replay on Saturday night.
The efforts of the players reflected their hunger to get their hands on another Ulster medal as they had to lift themselves time and time again. It also reflected their need to get the upper hand against a Monaghan side that have given them most trouble in recent years.
But it was never going to be easy. A couple of lapses in the opening half allowed Monaghan in for two goals. Donegal were just two points ahead at the break, 0-10 to 2-2, with the scoreline at odds with the dominance which Donegal held..
When Monaghan raised their game in the second half, Donegal were again up for the challenge but they were made work to the very end before getting their just desserts.
They can thank a number of players who really stepped up to the plate, not least Martin O’Reilly of MacCumhaill’s, who continuously brought the battle to the Farney men.
“He kept Karl O’Connell and kick a couple of points over the bar was a great day’s work for Marty,” said Donegal manager, Rory Gallagher, who was extremely proud of his side’s display.
“There was a lot of stake between the two teams and I’m very proud of our boys’ efforts over both nights and I think we the better team over both nights,” said Gallagher.
Other Donegal players who stepped up on the night included captain, Michael Murphy, who struggled the previous week with his shooting, but this time around was on his game from frees and in general play.
The win means that Donegal are into their sixth Ulster final in-a-row, a new record for this bunch of players. Donegal played in five finals in-a-row from 1989 to 1993 and some might argue that it was six because the 1989 final went to replay.
But what is different from the present bunch of Donegal players is that they will be going for a six Ulster title in those six years - which would surely mark them as the best ever Donegal team, if any further proof was needed
TYRONE IN ULSTER FINAL
They will have just two weeks to prepare for the final where they will face a familiar foe in Tyrone. Over those six years, Donegal have had the Indian sign on the Red Hands and they have been battle hardened by the two games in recent weeks against Monaghan.
Tyrone had a facile win, 5-18 to 2-17 against Cavan in the replay in St. Tiernach's Park, Clones, yesterday. Cavan, after conceding two goals in as many minutes in the second quarter, crumbled in the second half. Peter Harte (2), Conor McAliskey, Rory Brennan and Mark Bradley scored the Tyrone goals
Donegal will have their All-Star full-back, Neil McGee, back from suspension for that game, which will be a big plus.
For a big number of the Donegal panel, it will be the chance to win a fourth Ulster championship medal, which would also be record breaking.