THIS was always a potential banana skin for Cork, and despite a 13-point defeat in Mallow, the reigning champions are already through to the semi-finals.
As to whom they'll play, it's not yet known, with Donegal and Mayo yet to play following a postponed fixture earlier on in the league. That result will affect the fourth-placed standing but, one thing is certain, yesterday's seventh-round clash will stand to Ephie Fitzgerald's players.
There were eight changes to the starting side that defeated Galway last week, and with two debutants featuring - Bandon's Aideen Lynch and Mourneabbey's Aisling O'Sullivan - the exercise will be a worthy one, even if pride is somewhat bruised.
Captain Ciara O'Sullivan and her sister Doireann didn't feature given that they're both nursing injuries, while there was also new midfield partnering between Melissa Duggan of Dohenys and Louise Coholan of St Val's.
A total of 24 players togged out for Cork, including substitute keeper Maebh O'Sullivan, Aine Hayes, Maire O'Callaghan, Saoirse Moore, Laura Cleary, Lynch and O'Sullivan, but all eyes were on Brid Stack and Annie Walsh given it was their first return to competitive football since winning the All-Ireland last September.
If truth be told, Donegal were much more up for the tie given that they're fighting for a semi-final spot, and although Cork supporters may be a little downbeat about the severity of the defeat, the admission fee alone was worth it to see the class of Termon's Geraldine McLaughlin and Glenfin's Yvonne McMonagle.
Between them they registered 3-10, kicking some brilliant scores, but also producing some delicious interplay too.
McLaughlin netted Donegal's first goal, a penalty, on the fifth minute when Roisin Phelen had no option but to foul inside the square, and McMonagle added her first of two goals six minutes later after some sloppy Cork play.
Orla Finn was in top form, and only for her five first-half points, Cork could have been eight amiss at the turnaround, but instead they trailed by three (0-8 to 2-5).
Right on the stroke of half-time, Donegal's Grainne Houston found herself in the sin-bin, but despite being down a player upon the restart, it was Michael Naughton's side who did the most damage, scoring 1-3 in her absence - McMonagle with her second on the 36th minute.
Phelan had done well to keep McLaughlin to just a point in the first-half, however the Termon woman ran riot in the second, helping herself to five points.
And, had it not been for goalkeeper Martina O'Brien, the damage could have been much more, pulling off two super saves in each half Cork only managed to score four points in the second - Finn, Cleary, Walsh and O'Sullivan - and that will be disappointing from their point-of-view. Donegal on the other hand registered 1-13, and proved that the 2016 Division 2 champions will certainly be contenders for the Ulster championship title this summer.
The semi-finals will be in three weeks' time, but a training holiday to Costa Del Sol on Monday week will ensure the reigning league champions stay sharp for whoever they'll face on April 23.
O Finn 0-6 (0-1 frees), O Farmer, B O'Sullivan, L Cleary, A Walsh 0-1 each, R Ni Bhuachall 0-1 (pen).
Y McMonagle 2-4 (0-1 free), G McLaughlin 1-6 (0-1f), G Houston 0-3 (0-1 free), N Hegarty, E Ward and K Herron 0-1 each.
M O'Brien; E Spillane, R Phelan, E Meaney; M Corkery, R O'Sullivan (C), S Kelly; M Duggan, L Coholan; A Hutchings, B O'Sullivan, O Farmer; G Kearney, R Ni Bhuachalla, O Finn.
M O'Callaghan for R O'Sullivan, A Walsh for R Ni Bhuachall (inj), S Moore for G Kearney, B Stack for L Coholan, L Cleary for A Hutchings, A O'Sullivan for E Meaney, M O'Sullivan for M O'Brien (HT), A Hayes for S Kelly (38, inj), A Lynch for M Duggan (46).
A McGolgan; T Doherty, E Gallagher, N McLailughlin; T McClafferty, C Hegarty, K Keeney; K Herron, G Houston; Y McMonagle, N Hegarty, S McGruddy; R Friel, G McLaughlin, K Gutherie.
D Foley for K Keeney (HT), E Ward for R Friel (45), K Keeney for K Gutherie (55, inj), K McKinney for G McLaughlin, L Flynn for S McGruddy and C Gallagher for T McClafferty (62).
S Mulvihill (Kerry)