When Derry lost to Galway in the National League on Sunday week last, Fergal Doherty was conspicuous by his absence.
But when the Oak Leaf side re-ignited their bid for the title by dismantling the challenge of neighbours Tyrone last weekend, the imperious Doherty had a big say in the outcome of the match.
No wonder, then, that manager Paddy Crozier will again place huge faith in Doherty's partnership with the industrious James Conway for Sunday's crucial showdown with Donegal in Letterkenny.
Derry's midfield authority, so pronounced in earlier games, could provide the platform for a title coup although manager Crozier is playing it cool.
"Let's not forget that Donegal are the current holders of the title and that they are keen to keep it. They have been doing well so far and it will be a very close game on Sunday. Obviously midfield is a key area in all matches but especially so in the high pressure games and this certainly comes into that category," he said.
With Paddy Crozier having rediscovered his scoring touch following a temporary drought against Galway and Gerard O'Kane helping to reinforce the defence, Derry acquired a more combative edge against the Red Hands.
But Donegal manager Brian McIver is primed for battle.
"The fact that we got back on the rails against Laois is encouraging but Derry will be a big obstacle for us," says McIver.
And while the two north-west sides vie for supremacy in Division One, Armagh will attempt to regain a ration of pride against a Dublin side anxious to further enhance their promotion prospects.
The Dubs will come to Crossmaglen fired by ambition and determined to maintain their unbeaten record, according to key defender Paul Casey.
"As a panel we feel that we are good enough to challenge and actually go on and win an All-Ireland this year," he maintains. "You need the rub of the green and we mightn't have had that. But you make your own luck as well and hopefully we can learn some lessons from the Kerry game last year."
He added: "We have taken great pride out of the fact that we have won three Leinster finals in-a-row. It would be great to do the four-in-a-row in Leinster and push on from there. But Armagh are our main focus for now."