The word ‘belief’ appears to have a significant meaning in the GAA vocabulary just now.
Suddenly, it is very much the cornerstone of teams’ preparations for major Championship matches and has already played a major part in upsetting a form book that, let’s face it, had become too predictable by far.
The arrival of Derry, Armagh, Clare and Cork in next weekend’s All-Ireland Football Quarter-Finals has transformed the last-eight landscape to such an extent that making predictions has become a somewhat hazardous chore.
But sure, isn’t that what we want? I for one will take that any day rather than engage in the rather vacuous occupation of predicting the outcome of games which have ‘certainty’ written all over them.
It’s the magnetic appeal of the last-eight pairings which has already shone a spotlight on next weekend and triggered the rich promise that football of the haute cuisine variety might be on offer.
The overriding theme in the All-Ireland series to date has been the in-built confidence that teams such as Clare, Derry and Armagh have revealed in dishing up upset after upset.
For too long now, we have lived with the notion that Kerry and Dublin are away ahead of every other team. This is a theory to which I for one do not subscribe.
Where is the evidence to back up this suggestion? Yes, Dublin won six All-Ireland titles on the trot but let’s live in the now. They were stripped of the All-Ireland crown by Tyrone last year and since then the Red Hands boat has capsized.
And Dublin? After their frailties were exposed during the League, they were subsequently relegated along with fellow Leinster men Kildare — what does that tell you?
Kerry, meanwhile, took delivery of the League title as we all knew they would but they have not been in majestic form in winning yet another Munster title.
They now go in against a restructured Mayo side still yearning for their first All-Ireland title since 1951.
Kerry don’t carry the authority they once did, nor do they always play their football with total conviction.
The fact of the matter as I see it is that one of Clare, Derry, Galway and Armagh is going to be in the All-Ireland Final. At this point in time, you can take your pick.
I believe a number of teams now carry levels of hope and optimism that would not have been there 12 months ago.
From an Ulster perspective, I believe that if Armagh or Derry were to reach the All-Ireland Semi-Finals, this in itself would represent significant progress.
I think the next couple of weeks will bring considerable excitement, intrigue and no little drama to the table unless I am very much mistaken.
While Derry fans have waited 24 years to be in the frame again to have their thirst for honours quenched, Armagh are still waiting after 14 years to get their hands on the Ulster Championship.
Now that the Oak Leaf County have brought relief to their long-suffering followers with that Ulster triumph, they are keen to follow this up with an even greater triumph.
And if the provincial title bypassed Armagh again on this occasion, they too will be fired up to make a strong pitch for the All-Ireland title.
Opportunity is certainly knocking for the two Ulster counties and it’s imperative that they make a strong push for success.
Yes, the opposition will be tough and the mental test never mind the physical examination will be demanding in the extreme but then these are the obstacles that have to be surmounted if immortality is to be attained.
My message to the two Ulster sides is this — embrace the challenge, give it your all, summon the last reserves of your pride and leave Croke Park in the knowledge that you have given the task your absolute best.
You can do no more than that.
Over the course of the recent Allianz League and during the Championship season to date, I have become much more conscious of what I would describe as a dilution in the physicality of Gaelic football.
Indeed, the physical element of the sport invariably attracted considerable interest but of late it has been somewhat conspicuous by its absence.
I am, of course, fully aware that in some instances when people are making reference to physicality they are actually dwelling on cynicism which, as far as I am concerned, is rather removed from physicality.
Fair shoulder to shoulder charges, aerial battles for possession and hard but honest tackling appear to have given way to actions and ploys which have no part in our game.
The sport, in fact, appears to be devoid of much of its long-term values nowadays and instead we are served up cynical actions which do not show either the perpetrator or Gaelic football in a good light.
Cynicism indeed appears to be a core element of our sport now and this should not be the case at all because it has much more to offer than what is sometimes served up by inter-county teams in particular, who should know better.
Most players will accept genuine physicality aimed at retrieving possession rather than hurting an opponent. They, like me, will see this as an integral part of the game.
In the 2002 Armagh All-Ireland-winning side in which I was privileged to play, players such as Justin McNulty, Kieran McGeeney, Francie Bellew and Paul McGrane could give and take big hits while staying within the playing rules.
The restoration of what I would describe as traditional physicality will only be achieved with the support of referees.
I know that they have a lot to put up with and, indeed, are often pilloried, but I do feel they could have a big part to play in bringing back manliness rather than having the sport as a refuge for cynics.
When hits are genuine and aimed solely at attempting to regain possession then they are to be applauded given that it is, after all, a team sport in which physical contact is key.
I know from speaking to people that they would welcome a more healthy brand of football in which the emphasis is on the skills factor rather than dubious play which can well result in the sending of a player to hospital.
The game could well do without the fake injuries, the unnecessary stoppages when nothing is amiss and the obnoxious practice of attempting to have an opponent booked or, worse still, sent off.