Donegal manager Jim McGuinness hailed his team’s development after their stunning All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin.
The rank outsiders rampaged past the champions at Croke Park, winning 3-14 to 0-17, and it was all the sweeter for McGuinness coming three years after they managed only six scores in the 2011 semi-final defeat.
McGuinness told RTÉ Sport: “We came to play football and that was important. We didn’t get enough scores on the board in 2011 and that was our downfall.
“Our development wasn’t far enough down the track to be able to compete at that level with Dublin.
“But the lesson was we only kicked six points and what we aimed to do today was to marry a very good defensive structure with a very good attacking one and for me that’s what sport is all about.
"It’s not about all-out attack or all-out defence, it’s about both, and today we got both of them right.
“We’re delighted, we came with a game plan and, in fairness to the lads, they executed it to the letter of the law. I’m just very proud of them as I have been for the last four years, regardless what the result would have been today.
“Everything that you ask of them, they give it to you. We spoke about honesty before the game and we spoke about honesty at half-time.That’s what we got and they married that with the execution of a game plan so we’re absolutely delighted.”
"We came with a game plan and, in fairness to the lads, they executed it to the letter of the law"
While they won Sam Maguire in 2012, they were comprehensively beaten by Mayo in last year’s quarter-final and the Donegal boss wanted to make sure his team didn’t leave that memory as their legacy.
He added: "There was a lot of soul searching done; it was a tough situation to be in. One thing you can’t fault is these lads’ character.
"I suppose we had a few very tough and serious meetings at the beginning of the year and the question was asked of the boys, ‘What do they want to be remembered for?’ and I don’t think they wanted to be remembered for a 16-point defeat to Mayo.
"We’ve turned that around very well. Our preparations were very good going into this game, our focus was really good. I felt this morning we were going to deliver a big performance.
"You would have thought 10 or 15 minutes into the game that Dublin wouldn’t have been held today but the character that they’ve shown has been incredible.”
Kerry, after overcoming Mayo in a replay, now stand in the way of another title for the Ulster champions.
But for the moment McGuinness is just savouring the feeling of beating the erstwhile invincible Dubs.
“It’s going to be a lovely journey home. It’s a dream final in many respects, to be playing Kerry in an All-Ireland final,” he said.
“In my opinion, in football you can win every single game if your mind is right and your preparations are right, we believe that we can win that game. We also know that Kerry believe that as well.
“Both teams will have to come down to earth very quickly now and prepare for a final but we’re just delighted to be there.”