Since silencing a host of their critics with a resounding Ulster quarter-final win over Tyrone last month, Donegal have taken a familiar approach.
Manager Jim McGuinness had placed continual importance on the May 26 meeting, so much so he was accused of putting Donegal’s eggs in a solitary basket to the detriment of their Allianz Division One status.
The league was effectively treated as pre-season but when Donegal comprehensively overcame Tyrone, 2-10 to 0-10, the questions receded. It was as if they were never asked.
Michael Murphy led Donegal out that day and kicked six points to ensure the All-Ireland champions began to defence of their bread and butter, the Ulster championship, in a competent manner.
“It’s kinda funny in a way,” Murphy says of the focus that was put on the Tyrone match last month.
“As players, all we were looking at too was May 26. It only became a bit more obvious afterwards that others were questioning us.
“We actually weren’t aware of that or any outside distractions in the lead-up. All we were looking at was May 26.
“But every day you ever go out there to play a game of football, there will be questions asked of you.
“All we can do is keep going out there and answer those questions as best we can.”
Donegal’s priority has always been the next championship match. It’s a straightforward theory but some find that difficult to fathom.
For those involved, it’s not so complex. Down at Breffni Park, this Sunday, is the latest point of concentration.
Last July, Donegal hammered Down 2-18 to 0-13 in the most one-sided Ulster final since Down themselves had waddled over Fermanagh, 3-10 to 1-1, in 1971
However, it’s occasionally overlooked that for much of that first half Down matched Donegal stride for stride.
Only Leo McLoone’s goal on the half-hour gave Donegal a narrow advantage, 1-5 to 0-7.
And for a man who had to wait almost four years for this first provincial championship win, Murphy’s gradual approach in understandable.
“We’ve spoken this week about how our first half last year was patchy,” Murphy adds. “It won’t do on Sunday. We’ve still a few things we need to iron out as performance and result are two different things.
“The result against Tyrone was good but we’ve had to work on elements of our performance. Jim and Rory Gallagher have created an environment where we look at things and analyse them to try and improve.
“Getting to a third successive final would be great. It took me long enough in Ulster to win a game and not too often you get into these positions and these games have massive opportunities.”
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