Even before a ball was kicked in the Derry senior football championship, Ballinderry Shamrocks were being freely tipped to retain their title.
And yesterday Fabian Muldoon's side offered the first ration of compelling evidence that they can do just by gliding effortlessly past Newbridge by 1-16 to 0-5 in their opening encounter.
Dermot McGuckin's goal underpinned the title-holders' 1-7 to 0-4 interval lead and with old hands Conleith Gilligan and Collie Devlin in fine shooting form – they landed four points each – the team went on to a handsome 14-point victory.
The presence of a fully-fit Ryan Bell in their side, the ongoing commitment of a raft of veterans, the desire to make up for this year's All-Ireland club final defeat to St Vincent's and an ambition to see Derry football in general portrayed in a better light form a menu of incentives that could now spur the team to glory.
And the possibility that Ulster club championship matches may be afforded live television coverage provides a further carrot for the reigning provincial champions.
But both Loup and Lavey are among the teams which currently nurture hopes of toppling Ballinderry from their Oak Leaf throne.
Loup were impressive in beating Steelstown by 3-18 to 0-4 their goals coming from Ciaran Devlin, Michael McVey and Anthony O'Neill while Lavey looked efficient in beating Foreglen 2-11 to 0-11 with Damien Shivers and Eamonn McGill hitting the net.