After Derry reached the Ulster final of 2011, they went into an Ulster Championship tailspin that brought only a single win until this season.
Now they face into an Ulster final against Donegal, which will be manager Rory Gallagher’s eighth decider — including the 2014 Under-21 final — in 12 seasons coaching and managing.
After the win over Monaghan, the players spent a long time mingling in the Athletic Grounds heat with supporters and family. Truly, they look like a county transformed.
It is not an assertion that midfielder Emmet Bradley is shying away from when he assesses what has changed about Derry.
“I suppose the boys have really bought into it. It’s hard to put a finger on it. There’s a lot of variables,” explains the Glen, Maghera player.
“There’s a lot of factors have contributed to it. There’s a notable effort from the county to really row in behind the county team — and the clubs as well.
“I’ve seen a shift from when I started playing as well. But you can’t understate the shift that the boys have put in. The group of lads that are there at the minute are an incredibly humble bunch.”
He continued: “They’re incredibly coachable. They’re willing to listen to the coaching points from the management team and they’re humble enough to go and work their socks off at it to try and improve and improve as a team.
“But the other thing is everybody that is there puts the team first. And when you have that, the thing is moving in the right direction.”
In contrast to the joyous scenes in Armagh, it hasn’t been a huge pile of fun to be a Derry player in recent seasons, especially as they sank as low as Division Four.
Bradley has seen both sides of it now.
“There’d be the odd time you’d be thinking to yourself, is it all worth it?” he admits.
“But that’s why you play. Every day is not going to be a good and every year is not going to be a good year.
“That’s no reason to stop going. I’ve experienced it with my club. I’ve experienced it with my county. And hopefully things are starting to move the right way for Derry. All we’re focusing on is trying to compete at the highest level.
"If that reaps rewards or that gets results, that’s just a by-product of the work that’s being put in.”
In all the player interviews this season, they all point out the difference in having Gallagher as manager and Ciaran Meenagh as coach.
Bradley hands them plenty of credit for their united front.
“The management have created an environment that I suppose a lot of people want to be a part of,” he says.
"That’s a massive thing. There’s an incredibly professional setup there, one that could compete with the best in Ireland.
“We’re delighted to be part of that. It’s reaping dividends on the field for us. But there’s still a massive amount of work to put in. We’re still not where we want to be.
“Derry want to progress. The big objective at the start of the year was to progress in the Championship but we want to just keep building and pushing Derry higher and higher up the ladder and competing with the best teams.”
As evidence of the work Gallagher demands from his players, Bradley’s point in the 46th minute against Monaghan enshrined it.
He freed himself up to take a short kickout from Odhran Lynch and, while Monaghan defender Conor Boyle closed the space, Bradley made a run the full length of the pitch, his team-mates parting to the wings to allow him an open channel all the way to kick a point, despite Boyle’s constant harrying.
Elsewhere, Benny Heron’s two goals capped what has been his best ever season in a Derry jersey.
“We set out at the start of the year, that one of our aims was to get to the final,” explained Heron.
He added: “What has changed in Derry? The collective attitude and desire to represent Derry as best we can.
"To be successful for Derry is the aim everyone has.”