O'Rourke happy to prove Farney not one-hit wonders
Cementing reputations proved to be a powerful driving force for Monaghan, with Malachy O'Rourke admitting this one had been personal.
Stung by a general dismissal of their 2013 Ulster triumph as some sort of fluke, they pitched up to Clones yesterday intent on proving they were no one-hit wonders.
"Two years ago we came here and put in a great display and at the time we felt that the players didn't get the credit for it," O'Rourke said.
"It seemed to be more to do with Donegal being tired and having injuries and all that.
"Donegal in fairness were the better team last year, and fully deserved it, but we just wanted to come here and show that we were a good team, and that we could win another Ulster final."
Conor McManus' opening line to the thousands of Monaghan supporters who flooded onto the pitch to see him lift the Anglo Celt cup was "it's sweeter second time round".
O'Rourke agreed. "The first time around, it was nearly a shock to a lot of people.
"We felt we could win it, but there was amazing exhilaration and celebration, so this is more about fulfilment. It is sweeter.
"It was just proving to ourselves and proving to everyone that we could come back and beat a quality team like Donegal. I'm delighted to be able to prove that."
Although only tiny margins separated the teams in the end, Darren Hughes reckoned it was a validation of everything Monaghan have achieved in the past three seasons.
"We feel that we didn't get the credit outside of Monaghan for 2013. It was a fluke on the day... that Donegal didn't turn up and last year they got their revenge.
"But I think that today proves that we are on level par with them."
Monaghan attacked Donegal down the flanks and made good use of possession and although his team failed to score in the final 23 minutes, O'Rourke had faith his players would stick to the game-plan.
"We gave away a few frees that I wasn't happy about but I still thought our shape was good.
"I felt that unless we did something stupid, if we kept our shape and composure at the back, that we would be there or thereabouts.
"It could have gone to a draw, but I knew the boys would keep fighting until the end."
Rory Gallagher was left to rue a "flat" first half performance and 11 second-half wides, including Paddy McBrearty's injury-time effort, which the player himself admitted afterwards had tailed just wide.
"Our first half performance wasn't good enough," said Gallagher.
"We had the initiative in the second half but couldn't make it count. The focus will be on the last opportunity (from McBrearty) but we had a number of opportunities before that.
"The way we played in the second half, I feel we should have been level with about eight or nine minutes to go.
"Monaghan put on serious pressure but our work-rate and commitment in the second half was second to none.
"I don't think there was a lot wrong with that second half to be honest. There is a lot of fight left in us."