THERE was an unfamiliar sense of inevitability about Donegal last Sunday.
The feeling that, whatever Cavan did in their Ulster SFC clash, the reigning provincial champions would find a way through.
Previously, Donegal could never have been accused of such boring predictability.
A rip-roaring performance would often be followed by an inexplicable no-show, but under Jim McGuinness, Karl Lacey agrees they have developed a clinical edge.
"I've been involved in Donegal teams where we were hot favourites going into games but on the day you'd slip up and fall short," the All Star defender grimaces.
"It was something I thought about before the Cavan game, hoping it wouldn't happen.
"Cavan got off to a great start but some of our lads stood up. I think it's coming off the back of last year that is standing to us. Without the likes of Michael Murphy, the younger boys are standing up to the mark, the likes of Mark McHugh, Paddy McBrearty and those boys."
Murphy is expected to return to training with the squad this week following a knee injury sustained in the league clash with Dublin but he remains a doubt for the clash with Derry in Ballybofey on June 16.
"We were maybe relying on him too much for too long, he's only a young man as well. It was time other boys stepped up to the mark, definitely," added Lacey.
Under McGuinness, Lacey has been utilised in a different way. He was already established as one of the country's most effective man-markers but under McGuinness' regime, the Four Masters man has been released further out the field and last year, he became the first Donegal player to win three All Stars.
And with the defensive side of things in order, Lacey knows where they have to improve, even if Donegal are unlikely to totally abandon last year's controversial defensive style that earned them league and provincial success.
"We've been trying to work on our offensive style of play because teams were beginning to counteract us, but scoring 1-16 (against Cavan) was very positive," he said.
"There is a lot more belief and organisation. We have a game plan, like we never had before under any previous manager I had anyway. You know what your job is and what you have to do. Every player is working and it's coming together.
"I think we're doing it because it's working for us. It kept us in Division 1, it won us an Ulster title last year and it got us past the first round of the Ulster Championship this year, so we're not going to change too much."