NOW Cork know the feeling too. They have endured the Donegal 'experience' and haven't lived to tell the tale.
The erstwhile favourites for this year's All-Ireland senior football championship are no more, and it will take one hell of a team -- be they Dublin or Mayo -- to avoid the same fate as befell Cork yesterday or Kerry three weeks earlier.
Donegal's 0-16 to 1-11 victory was a thrilling vindication for a manager who can do no wrong this summer, but it also underlined just how far Jim McGuinness's troops have travelled since August 2011.
Twelve months ago, the Ulster champions scored six points against Dublin. Incredibly, it was almost enough to reach an All-Ireland final but instead they retreated from Croke Park with the wrath of a scandalised nation crashing down upon them.
Now, though, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we can appreciate that Donegal were a work in progress back then; that their mission in life wasn't the destruction of Gaelic football as we know it.
Yesterday, they returned to the scene of last year's alleged crime and scored 16 points in another All-Ireland semi-final. They also kicked 13 wides, as if to emphasise scope for further fine-tuning in this flying machine while proving that score creation is no problem for Donegal circa 2012.
The biggest wonder of all, of course, is that they 'only' beat Cork by two points. They say the scoreboard doesn't lie, but it can stretch the bounds of credulity at times.
This was an absorbing contest for myriad reasons -- many of them tactical -- but there was a mounting inevitability about the outcome from shortly after half-time. Donegal are one of those few teams who can look invincible in the act of defending a three-point lead.
As it happened, the game looked up for an increasingly panic-stricken Cork once Donegal kicked the first three points after the restart to lead by 0-11 to 0-7 after 43 minutes.
Even before that scoring shell-burst from Colm McFadden, Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey (a trio of All Stars in the making, the latter duo as double-jobbing defenders), there were clear signs of Cork disarray.
In the opening second-half exchanges, Graham Canty sliced one horrible wide under pressure. Paul Kerrigan's low percentage pot-shot met with the same errant outcome. Pearse O'Neill, on for the second half, misdirected a pass over the Cusack Stand touchline.
From high in the Hogan Stand, it's easy to decry Cork's inability to make -- and execute -- the right choices under pressure. You might even conclude that Conor Counihan's team, with one All-Ireland to show from the last five seasons, have underachieved.
But we weren't at pitch level where a succession of Cork players, faced by this impregnable defensive blanket of McGuinness's creation, ultimately didn't know where to run or turn.
Would it have been different if Colm O'Neill -- that rare font of Leeside hope and penetration -- had found the net instead of smacking the Canal End crossbar in the 46th minute?
Perhaps, for a goal then would have reduced the margin to a solitary point. But don't forget that, barely a minute earlier, Donegal were only denied a goal by Alan Quirke's block on Rory Kavanagh, Anthony Thompson firing over on the rebound.
By the end, the kings of Ulster wouldn't have been remotely flattered by a six-point winning margin. As it happened, they were five clear as the half slipped into the second of three additional minutes; they were playing keep-ball and their massive following in a crowd of 55,169 were greeting every pass with an exultant 'Ole' when the winners did something that was most un-Donegal-like.
Maybe the players were also day-dreaming of September 23 ... for one careless turnover, one raking Ciaran Sheehan delivery and one clinical Colm O'Neill finish later, the ball was nestling in the back of their net.
Suffice to say, the guilty party -- substitute David Walsh -- can expect a stern word in the ear at training this week. That injury-time concession may have had echoes of their late panic attack against Kerry but, in truth, grand larceny never really looked on the cards.
Donegal duly won the next kickout and a free, and while skipper Michael Murphy (edging back towards form as well as fitness) failed from distance, it mattered not a whit.
Within seconds, the game was over and McGuinness and his players celebrated as if they had won an All-Ireland final, not merely reached one.
Then again, when your county has only done so once before, you are entitled to milk the moment.
Soon after, Lacey received an on-field presentation to mark his 100th appearance for Donegal ... the three-time All Star has rarely been better, driving on relentlessly from half-back, kicking two inspiring points in the process.
Even still, when it came to 'Man of the Match' baubles, he was marginally eclipsed in this observer's eye by Neil Gallagher, who lorded it over the northside skies.
Here was just one example of how Donegal have evolved from last year to a position where they can emulate and now beat the best around. Pre-match speculation that they might struggle to cope against Cork's midfield might was shattered by Gallagher's tour de force.
Maybe this partly explains why Quirke went short with a majority of his restarts. Or maybe it's because, with Mark McHugh excelling in his trademark sweeper role, Cork would always have at least one free defender ready to receive the kickout.
Either way, though, Cork were playing into Donegal hands: because they weren't winning primary possession on the front foot. True, at different stages of that first half, they picked a few holes in the blanket. However, once they convened for tea in marginal arrears, there was always the prospect that Donegal -- the ultimate second-half team -- would drive onward.
So it transpired. This is a team at one with its system; a team of awesome fitness, growing fluency and burgeoning belief; a team with the insatiable appetite that usually marks out champions-elect.
At this remove, ahead of next weekend's second semi-final, the bookies have rightly installed them as odds-on favourites for Sam.
Moreover, even if Dublin beat Mayo, the holders will be facing a different animal to the one they eventually tamed in last year's semi-final. Steady on, we're getting ahead of ourselves ...