Underestimate Fermanagh at your peril: McGrath
Armagh and Tyrone may have garnered the lion's share of Ulster titles since 1999 but Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath points to what he believes is irrefutable evidence that the forthcoming Championship will prove the most open for some time.
The theory that the Ulster series has been 'open' in recent years is still articulated in some quarters but seven titles for the Orchard County and five for the Red Hands in the past 15 years underpin just precisely where the balance of power has rested.
McGrath, who took Down to their All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994, now makes the strong assertion that the 2014 provincial series is anything but predictable – an open book, in fact.
"I think that the recent league provides very interesting food for thought in a Championship context," muses the Rostrevor man.
"You have beaten league finalists Derry in there, then you have Monaghan and Donegal who contested the Division Two final and Cavan who reached the Division Three final.
"And that's without mentioning either Down or Tyrone.
"How could the Championship be anything other than open based on this scenario?"
McGrath is not in the least surprised that Fermanagh do not figure in pre-Championship title speculation nor does he regard this as insulting.
"It's something we would like to address and prove to those people who omit us from title thinking that they are wrong," states the Fermanagh boss.
"That indeed is always an added incentive for us.
"This line of thinking doesn't bother me but it's another wee bone to wave in front of the players," he says.
"We are as good as anyone else but people don't think we are so we just have to go and prove that we actually can compete with any team in this province as I think we can."
His side may have missed out on promotion from Division Three but McGrath feels form in that competition can become "totally irrelevant" in the Championship.
"What happens when we meet Antrim might bear no resemblance to what took place during the league," he says.
"We could have got a worse draw obviously than having to host Antrim at Enniskillen but it's worth remembering that Antrim will be saying exactly the same thing.
"They know they could have got a much harder draw than Fermanagh.
"League form will be totally irrelevant," states McGrath.
With the three Quigley brothers – Seamus, Conor and Sean – out of his panel and Daryl Keenan and Damian Kelly unable to commit to the county cause, McGrath is perceived to have diminished resources.
But he takes a much different view.
"I am very happy with the squad that I have," he asserts.
"I think that we are in a pretty good place following our league campaign in terms of confidence, self-belief and single-mindedness," says McGrath, whose side host Antrim on June 1.