Donegal selector Damien Diver is using regrets about his own career to warn the current squad not to ever get blasé about playing in Ulster finals.
Jim McGuinness’s side will appear in their fourth provincial final in a row on Sunday when they face Monaghan, in a repeat of last year’s decider, at Clones.
Former defender Diver, introduced to Jim McGuinness’s backroom team this year, lost all four Ulster finals he played in, under four different managers, in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
His best chance of winning the Anglo Celt was against Derry in ’98 under Declan Bonner, before Armagh’s domination of the provincial championship denied him on three occasions.
That pain is still fresh for the Ardara man and McGuinness, who was involved in three of those defeats, meaning there is no chance of the players taking these days for granted.
“The whole occasion about an Ulster final is brilliant, it is great to be any part of it,” he said. “I have been telling the players to treat every final as if it’s your first final, and more importantly, like it’s your last.
“For the young players coming in and playing in their first, it’s very important they grasp this opportunity with both hands, because they may not be back.
“Ulster final day is so prestigious, we just hope we can put in a performance.
“An Ulster final deserves a level of performance and you just hope that every man comes up to that level.”
Donegal are expected to bring a lot of hurt into the game, given that Monaghan ended their three-in-a-row hopes last year and beat them in the Division 2 league final this spring.
Diver was keen to dilute the revenge factor at yesterday’s final launch in Clones.
“There are no excuses in Donegal about why we didn’t win last year, Monaghan outpaced us everywhere around the field.
“The boys had massive hunger but they were outplayed. You could just see Monaghan were at a different level and had a different level of intensity.
“That was their first Ulster final in a good few years and this year they got the Tyrone monkey off their backs, so they are still moving forward.
“They are coming in with a different dynamic, though: they are coming in as the hunted, rather than the hunter, and that’s a different thing for them to handle.”
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