And off we go again. The Danske Bank Premiership is back after its mini-break, with Covid testing to keep everyone as safe as possible.
A full programme of fixtures is scheduled for various times on Saturday as most teams enter the second third of the regular season matches.
Meanwhile, in the Championship...
Not a ball, literally given the ruling that non-elite clubs couldn't use any spherical objects in training, has been kicked in anger in our second division since the final three games of the 2019-20 season on March 10.
That is nothing short of scandalous.
Since then, other than games in the Co Antrim Shield, Mid-Ulster and North West Cups, clubs have had to carry on preparing for a season being dangled like a carrot in front of an increasingly frustrated donkey but, let's face it, the asses here operate at a higher level.
To my reckoning, the Championship sides have been told to get ready to start on four separate dates - October 17, October 24, November 28 and January 2 - and are now waiting for a green light to try and squeeze in a league campaign in some shape or form.
The main stumbling block all along has been the mythical elite status that the Assembly is besotted with. I wouldn't let that lot run a bath for me, let alone the country, and when they try to organise sport then they need a really hefty kick in the sphericals.
As it stands, elite status, in footballing terms, applies to the 12 Danske Bank Premiership sides and their equivalent in the Women's game, with everyone else from Championship down in the pyramid waiting for a modern-day Howard Carter to discover them.
To keep the pun going, the Championship has been deserted. The nonsensical decision by the IFA to stage an Irish Cup draw last month just shows the alarming lack of foresight and joined-up thinking in the ivory towers.
As it stands, the earliest date that Championship sides can return to action is February 2 (which is also subject to change) but without proper training it is totally unrealistic for them just to turn up and play a competitive match as if nothing has happened.
The best-case scenario then is to give them a two-week preparation window, with the 22-game season still feasible if they kick off on February 20. This is far from ideal but better than nothing and, again, is in the lap of the pandemic gods.
This time last year, Queen's University manager Peter Thompson and his players were still basking in their seismic shocking of David Healy's Linfield in the Irish Cup.
Now, though, the brutal reality of life has kicked fairytales into touch.
"It would mean playing twice a week for an extended period of time, and 22 games in three months for a young squad like ours is not a good picture," he said recently.
"The main reason the 12 clubs got together was for the wellbeing of the players. This has been really tough for all the players. People don't realise how difficult it has been on them.
"We have been training since July 2, three times a week. The players are losing a bit of hope now, and that's why we want to keep pushing this campaign."
The 12 teams getting together refers to a letter from the dozen Championship clubs appealing for the government to reassess elite status.
"As a group of managers, we are asking NIFL to live up to their stated aim and to support the re-grading of the NIFL Championship to elite status, with immediate effect, and allow players, coaches, members and fans of all our clubs to have a little solace in this extremely testing and unique time.
"Allow our clubs to be diligent and support our local communities by bringing some normality and balance in a time of great stress and discomfort to us all."
That was in November. The IFA and NIFL both took the case to the Department of Communities (the Sports Minister in old money) but it was shot down, meaning no action for the Championship and the IFA left looking ridiculous, with the Irish Cup draw as much use as an ashtray on a Suzuki.
What rankles even more is the lack of consistency. Let's look at the FA Cup. The fairytale fixture of the third round a couple of weeks ago was the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Marine.
Marine play in the Northern Premier League Division One North West. That is effectively the EIGHTH tier of football in England. Their average attendance for home games this season is 290. Elite stuff.
Across the border, the First Division was still in action. What of it, I hear you cry. Well, it has a knock-on effect, especially for the likes of Newry City, who have traditionally relied on bringing players in from the Republic of Ireland.
Manager Darren Mullen had signed defender Conor O'Keeffe but has since let him leave for Galway United.
"It's even more bizarre in Conor's case because he's gone to the First Division down south, who have been deemed elite by the FAI. It makes a nonsense of our situation," said boss Mullen at the time.
"Conor's made the right choice because he wants to play, and I can't deny him that."
And keeping hold of players is another major headache for Championship teams. Now, it has always been the case that the Premiership clubs pick off the ripest talents, and it has been a fruitful orchard, current Northern Ireland internationals Michael Smith and Stuart Dallas just two of those who cut their teeth at this level, with Ballyclare Comrades and Coagh United respectively.
It works the other way too, though, the likes of David Rainey, Michael Halliday and Richard Clarke just some of those who have continued to play on with distinction after Premiership life.
This month, Ballinamallard United boss Harry McConkey waved goodbye to Ryan Mayse and Matthew Smyth, who have signed for Dungannon Swifts.
"Even pre-Covid, the January window has always held a certain trepidation for Championship managers who had players who were excelling themselves and catching the eye," McConkey said recently.
"Players want to play, and there have been so many false promises of start dates for the Championship but players can look at the Premiership and see that matches continue to go ahead with a lot less disruption than ourselves, who have not got off the mark."
There is a real concern for player welfare in all this too, being constantly asked to go to the well only to find that the water and the bucket have been snatched away time and time again.
Institute boss Sean Connor, quite rightly not a huge fan of football chiefs given the shameful way they were treated last season, made some great arguments to dispel the myth that the Championship is just a bunch of yahoos playing with jumpers for goalposts.
"There are over 50 professional players and they signed the very same contract the Premier League players signed," he said.
"Most of the managers are either pro licence or working towards it. There's support staff, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning professionals - everything.
"My major fear is that we will not get our season completed and therefore there will be no promotion to the Premier Division, and therefore the aspirations of many a player, manager and supporter will be damaged and we will all have lost a full year."
Local football legend Colin Nixon, now managing Dundela, never shirked a challenge in his long and distinguished career, and he didn't miss the wall when asked for his views on how things have been handled.
"I'm sick, sore and tired about how the Championship has been treated. I think it has been a disgrace and a complete farce from the start," he said.
"I don't say this lightly, and I know tough decisions have to be made by the powers-that-be across the board in these difficult times, but I feel the IFA need to take a good, hard look at themselves about how they handled this."
Ards chairman Warren Patton and previous incumbent, Brian Adams, have both argued recently that it was time to draw a line and void the season.
It is a fair point, and the real fear is that if the season does get the green light, the curtailment plans could mean a champion declared after just 11 games and then the thorny issue of whether that would mean promotion.
Never mind Irish Cup fairytales, that would be the biggest nightmare of all.