Lacey eager to get 'house in order' for crack at Dubs
Few would have predicted it at the time but 1,745 days have passed since Dublin were last beaten in the championship when Donegal caused one of football's biggest shocks in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.
Karl Lacey was to the forefront that day as Jim McGuinness plotted the downfall of Jim Gavin's Dubs and he now finds himself on the sideline as Donegal coach, hoping to repeat the dose again later this summer.
All the talk is of five-in-a-row with many suggesting that Stephen Cluxton's sixth visit up the Hogan Stand steps to lift Sam Maguire is a mere formality, but Lacey doesn't see it quite like that.
"They have to be stopped, so they do. I believe there are three or four teams that can do that. We are just going to get our house in order," Lacey said at the Electric Ireland Minor Championships launch.
"The best way for us to stop them is to win an Ulster Championship, go in the front door to the 'Super 8s' that way and see where that takes us then. They are still the best team in the country, without a doubt.
"But it is hard to know where they are at, this time of the year, it is hard to analyse. They won't know where they are at until July and August and hopefully, we will be there. That's our aim."
Lacey - Footballer of the Year when Donegal last claimed All-Ireland honours in 2012 - feels the chasing pack are getting closer to Dublin's coat-tails and hopes they get their shot at denying history later this summer.
"I just think that other teams are developing a wee bit more in terms of game-plans and stuff like that. Catching up with them a wee bit. Five-in-a-row, there will be a wee bit of pressure on Dublin," the Four Masters clubman said.
"Is the hunger there? I don't know, I can't answer those questions. We are just going to look after ourselves and if you come across them in the Super 8s or an All-Ireland semi-final, then you will be able to answer."
A comprehensive defeat of last year's All-Ireland finalists Tyrone on Saturday night has Donegal in pole position to land another Ulster crown where they will be warm favourites to beat surprise packets Cavan.
The 34-year-old feels great confidence will be taken by Donegal's youthful squad - who have Division 2 league honours already under their belt - after taking down big hitters Tyrone and he expects them to flourish from now on with "the shackles off now a wee bit".
"We were waiting for that one for a long time, it was coming, it just came at the right time. We got it right and then it was important to get the performance, to get that big performance out of the way and to beat a big team," the four-time All-Star said.
"Our boys are well capable of doing that but it's not until you actually do it that people believe that. It sets us up with a bit of confidence now going into the Ulster final. It's the belief, getting that belief into the young lads, knowing they can compete."
Players like Jamie Brennan, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Michael Langan and Ciarán Thompson are coming of age but Michael Murphy - a player he rates among the very best in the game - is still the fulcrum and Lacey admits it's challenging to keep him satisfied in training.
"He's hard to deal with," Lacey joked. "He is the leader. Michael Murphy is the leader of Donegal, he is captain for a reason and Jim McGuinness made him captain for a reason.
"But the other guys are just as important. Every single person within that group have their own leadership capabilities. Michael is the front of it, he is the face of it, he is the captain, that's his role.
"He is the one guy who will always ask the questions in terms of tactical sessions, meetings, and all of that but he is not the only one. Every single player asks question but Michael might be leading that but everyone else follows suit.
"More importantly, he is starting to play really well as well, and that is what we want. We want Michael Murphy kicking frees and scoring and getting goals for us."
Lacey - who was linked with a role in Roscommon (although he "doesn't know where that came out of") before rejoining the Donegal fold after a brief period out of the fold - is enjoying his role in Declan Bonner's backroom team, with management in his mind at some stage in the future.
"I don't know where it is going to bring me. I am enjoying this role, but I will need to gain a lot more experience to step into it. It is a big responsibility, even the demands," he said.
"The things that players look for in terms of tactics and video. They are demanding things off you every day. It is a big commitment but I am enjoying it and getting great experience working with the likes of Declan and Stephen (Rochford)."