Karl Lacey has revealed the emotional turmoil firing Donegal as they bid to reclaim All-Ireland glory.
Jim McGuinness’ side regained their Ulster title after seeing off last year’s champions, Monaghan, and will face Armagh this coming Saturday in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Their championship success has come after a disappointing 2013 campaign, during which some people questioned whether they were a busted flush; departures from their panel earlier this year, and comprehensive defeat in the division two league final (albeit after promotion to division one).
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Lacey explained how much the win in Clones had meant to them, following a tumultuous period.
“It meant an awful lot,” Lacey said.
“After what happened last year... there was a lot of hurt and pain there.
“In fairness to the lads, we brought that hurt and pain into training this year, since January, and we’ve worked really, really.To get over the line in the Ulster final was brilliant, and to bring the Anglo-Celt [Cup] back to Donegal Town was a great to have.”
Lacey said he hoped Donegal could flourish in Croke Park, as they had done during their victorious season in 2012, but said that it was the “bigger and the better teams” which tended to still be in the championship at this time of year.
“That’s what we’re facing, that’s what’s ahead of us now, in the All-Ireland series,” he said.
“We’re just looking forward to getting back to Croke Park. You know when you’re in Croke Park that you must be doing something right and you’re doing something well. So we’re looking for a big performance.”
"To get over the line in the Ulster final was brilliant" - Karl Lacey
If winning Ulster was about exorcising the demons of last season, Croke Park holds its own difficult memories for McGuinness’ men, and Lacey was quick to point out that the forthcoming game offered a chance at redemption in this regard, also.
“We don’t have great memories of the last time we played there, in the national league final. And before that there it was the Mayo game, last year, in the [championship] quarter-final. So we’ll be looking to put that right now, this time.”
Lacey said Donegal had areas on which they could improve following the Ulster final. In that game, they saw off a lacklustre Monaghan side in a dour, attritional encounter.
“It was never the complete performance,” he conceded. “It was just a matter of getting over the line, and getting the job done, and that’s what it was against Monaghan.
“And that’s not going to be good enough in an All-Ireland quarter-final, and we know that, and we’ve worked hard since the Ulster final, and we’re training well again.
"Jim has put a couple of things in place, and hopefully we can implement them on the day and hopefully it will be good enough.”