When Down were beaten by Tyrone in the semi-final of the Ulster senior football championship last year it looked as if their season had collapsed.
Yet that match triggered a resurgent charge through the Qualifiers that culminated in a one-point defeat by Cork in the All-Ireland final.
Manager James McCartan had hoped to avoid the back-door route this year but a surprisingly low-key display against Armagh last month changed all that.
Tomorrow the Mournemen will resume their acquaintance with the Qualifiers when they travel to Ennis to meet a Clare team that is only marginally better off than the two worst sides overall, Kilkenny and London.
While Down have confirmed their status in Division One, Clare have floundered in anonymity since the start of the year, ploughing an undistinguished furrow through Division Four.
Not surprisingly, the Mourne side are hot favourites to win tomorrow’s tie even though they will be without several players who are still injured.
Also cast as favourites in their respective missions are Antrim and Fermanagh. The Saffrons have derived comfort from some encouraging performances in challenge games and will face a Westmeath side at Casement Park who will be without leading scorer Dessie Dolan.
Fermanagh travel to London knowing they have a lot of ground to make up following a poor league campaign and a depressing display against Derry in the Ulster championship.
“We’re looking no further than this game in Ruislip. There is a good spirit within the side but we know London are very fired up for this game,” says manager John O’Neill.
Monaghan captain Dick Clerkin is relieved to be leading his side against Offaly in Tullamore tomorrow after having the red card he incurred against Tyrone overturned, while Paul Finlay, Eoin Lennon, Darren Hughes, Colin Walsh and Conor McManus will all help to bolster the side.
And Cavan captain Seanie Johnston is expecting a much better performance from his team when they face Longford tomorrow than they delivered against Donegal earlier this month.