In every sport there are highs and lows and Gaelic football is certainly no exception to that.
Just as is the case in society in general, there will always be the haves and the have nots.
This has been vividly underlined within the GAA in general and Ulster in particular of late.
To my mind, nothing brings this into vogue more than the sharply contrasting fortunes that Down and Derry have sampled of late.
Down has always been regarded as a proud football county but right now its fortunes could hardly be at a lower ebb. One draw from seven matches in the Allianz League was followed by a clinical dismissal from the Ulster Championship at the hands of a Monaghan side that must surely have been surprised at the manner in which their opponents capitulated.
And while every county must of necessity look to its own laurels, I can understand that there is currently a wave of sympathy for Down and their manager James McCartan.
No team has been hit harder by injuries, absenteeism and defections and while McCartan has uncomplainingly shouldered a heavy burden, Down find themselves in an unenviable position.
Having been relegated to Division Three, they are destined to participate in the inaugural Tailteann Cup competition shortly — something that every team would like to avoid if it were at all possible.
And there is the danger that McCartan could be without the services of some more players should they be bitten by the travel bug.
Indeed, the turnover of players at senior level within the county over the past 10 years has been astronomical and this is something that I think creates major problems for the county’s legislators.
I don’t want to be Job’s comforter but it could get worse for Down — and I say that with the greatest reluctance — if the current level of apathy is sustained.
Yet while a cloud of depression envelops Down right now, a rather different situation pertains in Derry.
Here we have a county that made the transition from Division Four of the Allianz League to within touching distance of Division One before they applied the coup de grace, as it were, by handing out a sharp lesson to reigning Ulster and All-Ireland champions Tyrone last weekend.
Few indeed would have ventured to think that the Oak Leaf side would have enjoyed such a generous margin of victory against the Red Hands, and on their own soil too.
Derry’s renaissance does not centre on one result, of course. No, the current progress is being made because of a lot of hard work which has been undertaken behind the scenes in an effort to rehabilitate the county.
While Rory Gallagher has made a big impact as manager, Derry’s revitalisation is more complex than that.
I believe that Club Derry has played a big part in lifting morale within the county and now that their efforts are being supported by the players who wear the county jersey, optimism has replaced pessimism as far as I can see.
I think Derry have made huge strides on the financial front and that is always calculated to fire up any county.
Along with this it would appear that they have the right people in place in key positions and this has led to a fresh wave of enthusiasm engulfing the entire county.
That same enthusiasm appears to be sadly lacking as far as Down football is concerned and that’s why we have two counties with massively contrasting fortunes as we have seen over the course of the opening weeks in the Ulster Championship.
While Derry are now focused on a rare Ulster Championship Semi-Final engagement in which they will meet what will undoubtedly be a fired up Monaghan side at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh next Sunday, Down will await the Tailteann Cup draw with some trepidation.
I for one would wish the Mourne County well — after all, they charted a great course in the past before falling on hard times.
It is fair to state that Championship results have tended to become rather predictable over the course of recent years.
Dublin’s feat in winning the All-Ireland title from 2015 until 2020 ensured that the status quo remained intact with only the occasional deviation from what would be regarded as normal business.
But when you look at how Mickey Harte has masterminded back-to-back promotions for Louth and how Cavan crept up on the blind side to claim the Ulster title two years ago, you can see the shock ripples coming to the surface.
Yet what we saw last week was more akin to a mini-earthquake with Derry not so much beating Tyrone as humiliating them in their own back yard.
Bear in mind this was a Derry side given little chance because of their depressing record in the provincial competition in recent years — they last won the Ulster title in 1998.
Yet the team not so much rose to the occasion last Sunday, rather they surged into a centre-stage role, stunning onlookers in the process.
It was not just the fact that Derry won the game which left people confounded but the emphatic manner in which they came out on top against the Ulster and All-Ireland champions.
Seismic though the shock was, it was not concentrated within the Derry camp. No, I believe it sent a clear message to other unsung teams throughout the island to have self-belief, commitment and pride and then perhaps they too might come good.
Indeed, Derry did the GAA a big favour, their feat coming on a weekend in which one-sided victories for other fancied teams were par for the course — did I hear someone mention Dublin and Monaghan?
If we are truthful, I think we had reached a stage where we thought there would be no more shocks but thankfully that’s not quite the case.
I think there is renewed hope for every team but they must apply themselves diligently to the cause.
Today, Donegal and Cavan will renew their rivalry in the Ulster Championship and we can reflect back on how Declan Bonner’s side capitulated to the unfancied Breffni County, who helped themselves to the provincial crown in 2020.
While Donegal will be the firm favourites in the eyes of most people, I believe that Cavan will have fire in their bellies on this occasion.
Like Derry, they will want to script their own chapter in the current Ulster Championship and to do that they will seek to take a leaf from the Oak Leaf side’s book. I wish them well in their endeavours.