Fermanagh manager Malachy O’Rourke is hoping that his side can serve up another helping of the ‘Saturday shock’ treatment that has dramatically revitalised a hitherto ailing Championship season.
Up until the weekend, all four provincial football competitions appeared in danger of strangulation through a combination of inconsistent refereeing and a fixation with defensive strategy.
Now suddenly the Championship overall has undergone a seismic makeover. Sligo and Louth set the tone with their dramatic wins over the more fancied Mayo and Kildare on Saturday, then Monaghan humbled Armagh by a staggering twelve points and relegated Westmeath stunned Wicklow in Leinster.
It’s hardly surprising then that Erne boss O’Rourke is keen to see his side take their lead from the achievements to date of Sligo and Mayo in particular when they square up to Cavan in the last of the Ulster football quarter-finals on Saturday at Kingspan Breffni Park (5.15).
“Obviously the staging of important games last Saturday not only brought about spectacular results but saw massive crowds at the venues,” states O’Rourke.
“We would happily settle to be bracketed as Saturday specialists in front of a big crowd this weekend but that will be far from easy. The Ulster Championship to date has thrown up some real quality performances and the bar has been set for us. Monaghan will meet the winners of the game between us and Cavan and obviously their confidence will now be up.”
He is keeping his fingers crossed that Martin McGrath (pictured) and captain James Sherry will form his midfield while the experienced Mark Little is expected to return to the attack and Ryan McCluskey is likely to underpin the defence with Ronan Gallagher and Chris Breen disputing the goalkeeping berth. Seanie Johnston will be back for Cavan while the experienced Lorcan Mulvey and Nicholas Walsh may form the Breffni midfield.
The pace of change continues to quicken within the GAA, an organisation that has in the past faced accusations of being ultra-conservative and indeed intransigent.
In the past Sunday was sacrosanct in terms of staging Ulster quarter-finals and semi-finals but with changing social trends, the considerable carrot of live television and the increasing emphasis on club fixtures it is felt that there will now be even more championship matches on Saturdays in future.