The year 2020 has contained too many unlikely occurrences to count and yet they just keep coming.
The latest came yesterday when Ulster's Dan McFarland sat down to preview his side's Guinness PRO14 final with Leinster in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and found himself fielding a question that would have seemed unthinkable only a few weeks ago - one regarding the battle to start for his side at scrum-half.
John Cooney, of course, has become the side's talisman since arriving in 2017, the attacking heartbeat of the team since he did the unthinkable and replaced Ruan Pienaar. More recently, his game has gone to a new level and, with a shared love of the mental side of the game, it has seemed coach has been good for player and player for coach since the moment Cooney kicked Ulster to victory in McFarland's first game in the hot-seat two years ago this week.
Indeed, back before the season's interruption, the 30-year-old was talked of as one of the form players in Europe and had finally became a regular with Ireland, backing up Conor Murray in all three Six Nations games under Andy Farrell after the pain of missing out on Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad last year.
And, yet, with an All Black now held in reserve - Alby Mathewson having arrived in the long break - even the side's star man faces a selection sweat after his half-time substitution in the semi-final win over Edinburgh
By his own admission, speaking before his 40 minute showing in Murrayfield, Cooney's performances since lockdown have not been up to the standard he set himself - just as Conor Murray's weren't when Mathewson appeared to be putting the pressure on him during his Munster spell.
In such an oddly structured campaign, what is surely nothing more than pre-season rust has been magnified, and Cooney has overcome much more than two games' worth of less than stellar play.
Blossoming from injury-plagued beginnings, few players in Ireland have overcome more to, as McFarland likes to say, 'squeeze every drop" from their careers, and the smart money is still on the former Leinster man getting the nod against his old side on Saturday and Mathewson spelling him from the bench. Yet, still McFarland spoke about the dynamic of the relationship yesterday as one of competition.
"We've got two quality scrum halves and that's why Alby was brought in," said the coach. "To give us the opportunity to have a little bit of competition in that spot. It's probably a luxury to have the choice of those two guys."
Taken off at half-time, watching his old pal Ian Madigan win the game in a situation normally reserved for him, will naturally have been tough for Cooney, even if his side's victory ensured the pill was to be at worst bitter-sweet rather than bitter.
"John knows it's about winning and when we make decisions like that as the coaching team, it's about winning," McFarland added. "Alby added something a little bit different in that second half and we needed to change things up. John's a great player, he was before and he still is now."
The coach is right, of course, and Cooney's blip will surely be just that. The reality, though, is that such a conversation even taking place is indicative of a concerted effort that has the province one game away from a first piece of silverware since 2006.
Back when Ulster last beat Edinburgh in a semi-final - that of the Heineken Cup in 2012 - a place on Mark Anscombe's bench meant you were just as likely to have the night off as be thrown into the action.
The Kiwi's first change in that clash came only after 65 minutes, while just three more followed in the game's final seven.
Nigel Brady, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, and Adam D'Arcy were all left kicking their heels.
Indeed, when they played Leinster in the PRO12 final a year later, his reliance on the run-on side was even stronger, using only three of his allotted eight replacements. Anscombe, assessing the talents of those under his charge, had evidently decided he had a team but not a squad.
Seven years ago is a different time, of course, but it remains a striking contrast to Ulster's more recent outlook, the one that paid such dividends last week when it was the bench, first turned to as early as half-time, that hauled them into Saturday's final despite twice trailing by 12 points.
Recruitment of late has reflected the change in emphasis; game-winner Ian Madigan, Mathewson, Jack McGrath and Matt Faddes all brought in to fight for positions where Ulster already had established starters.
While Leinster's abundance of talent is produced more locally, it's an idea that is key to the recent bevy of silverware in Dublin, where it is routine to see quality players not just named among the replacements but suited and booted in the stands too.
While Ulster are not at the same level yet, to see six internationals come off the bench in Murrayfield shows how the efforts to attain it are already bearing fruit.
Competition is what drives teams like Leinster to the heights they've reached. It's why, as tough as it will be to tell those left out for Saturday, McFarland will know it's a necessary evil.
"Definitely," he said when asked if whether to start youngsters like Tom O'Toole and Eric O'Sullivan or the more experienced campaigners Jack McGrath and Marty Moore constituted a selection headache.
"It was great for the young lads to start against (Edinburgh) and I thought they were fantastic in that first period when their energy went a long way to making sure that, even though we weren't playing great, we were only five points down at half-time.
"Jack and Marty add a lot, and it's not just around their set-piece work, it's also around that leadership. These guys are winners, they've been involved in games where the pressure is on and they've needed to win and they pulled it out of the bag."
That Ulster are now involved in such games themselves comes down to the fact that the pressure starts before the team is even announced.