With a new year brings fresh hope. 
And for GAA supporters in Ulster the McKenna Cup is the competition that gets us all back in the groove. By the time you are reading this Fermanagh will have played their opening game in the competition and I am sure with the curiosity that comes with a new management there will have been a big crowd at Brewster Park last night (weather permitting) to see the clash with Monaghan.
Chatterings around the county would certainly indicate that not a stone has been left right side up as Rory Gallagher and his management team look to make 2018 a success. 
It seems the team will be very fit and I suspect that when it comes to the league, and certainly the McKenna Cup they will be ahead of the posse in terms of fitness. 
Looking in from the outside it appears that Gallagher is focusing on the league, and he is right to do so. The national league has become so competitive that playing at the highest level has become much more important than it was in the past.
The lower you play in the league the more bad habits you pick up, while the higher you play the more attuned you become to doing things well at speed. It is a double-edged sword. So a speedy return to Division Two would be the number one goal for 2018. Not that it will be a walk in the park.
Armagh and Derry will both fancy their chances of promotion while Sligo, Wexford, Westmeath, Offaly and Longford will hardly be quaking in their boots at the thoughts of facing Fermanagh.
All that said I think we have enough about us to get promoted. The renewed vigour brought about by a new appointment will have its usual effect, while a fresh slate combined with Gallagher’s power of persuasion should mean that the best players in the county are out on the field.
In many ways it is over to the players now to prove themselves. They have knocked on the door for long enough, and now that they have a man in charge who they believe holds the key to unlocking that door, the stage is set for them.
There are some supporters who were not best pleased with the part the players had in Pete McGrath’s resignation. As I said at the time the main blame for that particular debacle lies at the door of the county board. I hope everyone in the county gets behind the team and I have no doubt that winning will help remove any distaste that might be lingering among some supporters.
And speaking of winning isn’t it fantastic to see Enniskillen Gaels minors triumph in Ulster. 
In doing so they emulated club mates from the 1988 side who captured the Ulster minor title after a replay. That side went on to backbone the Enniskillen 1992 senior championship winning team and by the time the end of the 90s came and the emergence of the six in a row side there was still a healthy smattering of players from that minor panel involved.
Enniskillen Gaels will be hoping that this minor success will herald the beginnings of a new era at senior level. The rebuilding process has been taking place for a number of years now and the maturation of this minor team might just be the catalyst to bring about the next step.
I was taken with the amount of messages on social media from GAA people right around the county, that not only congratulated the Gaels team but that also said that a strong Enniskillen Gaels was vital to the success of the county as a whole.
I have been very impressed with the Gaels minors. Not only are they good footballers but their attitude is excellent. They want to improve and get better and there is a humbleness about them that is very admirable. 
If you couple this success with that of Derrygonnelly in the Ulster senior club championship and also Belnaleck in the Ulster Junior Club championship any inferiority we have about competing in the provincial arena should be banished. 
Our footballers are as good as anywhere and it is up to every club in the county, along with the county coaches we have at all levels to ensure that we maximise the potential that we have.
Maximising potential will likely be a phrase that the new director general of the GAA uses when they come into position this year. Pauric Duffy is stepping down and his successor has a big job on their hands. 
Unfortunately, from my perspective, the Association has lost it sense of purpose over the past number of years and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Profit margins seem to be the most pressing issue for Croke Park yet the redistribution of that profit does little to redress the huge imbalances that exist between teams at county level.
The leadership of the GAA pay scant regard to counties, such as Fermanagh, who have limited resources when it comes to raising money. Fermanagh, through Club Éirne, do an excellent job in this regard and it is difficult to see how that particular envelope can be pushed any further. 
Yet, pushed it must be, because there is no other way to keep up.
The reality is that Croke Park has no desire to see a level playing field. It is hard to see that they want anything other than an elite set of counties in place that they can promote and market. For the rest of us it is a case of tough luck. 
The GAA should be about providing equal opportunity for every player. We have moved a long way from that and unfortunately I don’t see a new director general changing the path we are on.