Roslea remain the front runners

Representatives from each of the clubs competing in the  senior  championship pictured at the club championship  photocall

Representatives from each of the clubs competing in the senior championship pictured at the club championship photocall.

A new era for Erne football arrives this weekend with the baptism of a radically new championship format.

It has taken a long time to get to this stage but at last the aim of those who have long sought to inject fresh spark into the domestic competition will see that ambition come to fruition.

And it is a major overhaul of the structure, just eight clubs contesting the senior event reduced from the unwieldly dozen, another eight in what is expected to be a very competitive intermediate and a very welcome return of the junior, four clubs competing here to make it a genuine competition.

So thorough has the transformation been that to some degree the intermediate campaign overshadows to some degree the premier event.

And it is only now that clubs, especially those in the intermediate grade, will begin to appreciate just how difficult it is going to be to earn passage up to the senior over the coming years.

There is a clutch of the stronger clubs, long used to operating at senior who could easily find themselves contesting intermediate grade for many, many seasons.

As for those who will be in the senior race this year the reigning holders Roslea go in as the pre competition favourites.

Roslea have begun to see some of their longest serving stars now depart, the exit of the formidable midfield partnership of James Sherry and Kevin Cosgrove, bound to have an impact.

Still the Shamrocks retain most of the panel who have chalked up an impressive run of championship titles and they are clearly the team the others have to beat.

Defensively Roslea look to be exceptionally well equipped, Niall Cassidy, Peter Sherry, Conor Quigley and Peter Lynch have nothing to prove and they now have the huge boost of the talented James McMahon delivering on his exceptional potential.

And of course the champions have the most effective attacking force in club football, Seamus and Sean Quigley.

This squad doesn’t need any favours but they have been handed one anyway with the pairing of second division Derrylin in the quarter final.

Needless to say the Roslea camp will be at pains to stress that they will be approaching this Derrylin game with extreme caution and will be adamant that there will be no complacency on their part. Still, it would be the upset of all upsets if the O’Connell’s were to ambush this durable Roslea squad.

Derrylin have been handed the short straw, scant reward for their triumph in intermediate in 2014.

No doubt they will be adopting a defiant attitude and why not? This is one of the key attractions of sport, the joust between David and Goliath, we all experienced it a few weeks back in Croke Park.

But the outcome must surely be the same, Roslea, AKA Dublin, to head into the semi-finals.

Who will join them is another matter entirely for the reduced numbers has meant that the remaining half dozen contenders will all have reason to believe that they can make a fist of this competition, after all they are first division sides.

Going on league form at the moment the team with the strongest chance to put it up to Roslea looks like being an improving Erne Gaels squad.

The Belleek side have definitely upped their game this year and facing a rather fragile looking Tempo side in the quarter-final is an added bonus.

The Maguires have slipped down the pecking order since their double success in 2012 though they still have many of that panel still on board. Not to be casually ruled out, but on the whole the future looks to be favouring Erne Gaels.

Which leaves two hard-to-call ties, Devenish v St Patrick’s and Derrygonnelly v Ederney.

Much of a muchness here, St Patrick’s perhaps the side who will be the longest shots to finish winners come early October.
St Joseph’s have been on the cusp of a championship breakthrough for a couple of seasons now, but frustratingly have failed to cross the threshold. Their form this season has, like the other trio, been basically so-so but they could be the dark horse.

A huge factor will be the open ended semi-final draw and the rest will be looking to avoid Roslea until they really have to. With the Shamrocks bidding for their third title in a row and their fifth in six years that’s understandable.

Finally the championship will have the newly introduced relegation sequence of games, losing quarter-finalists going into semi-finals, losing semi finalists with one final opportunity to stay in senior.

It all adds up to a hectic September and the drama will go some way to compensate for the dearth of league football over the months of June and July.

The club player will, belatedly, finally come centre stage.