As a former player it is hard not to be nostalgic around this time of year. The first game your county plays in the championship campaign is special, and when it is accompanied by the drying of pitches and days of sunshine the nostalgia seems all the rosier.

This year the dawning of another championship season brought with it a pang of realism too. It is 20 years since I made my debut for Fermanagh. Yon is ridiculous, especially when I am perpetually aged 24 in my head.

Pat King was the manager and beset by injuries to forwards he asked Tom Brewster to give me a ring and see if I would come in. I can remember the call to this day. I wasn’t long home from school and was eating a banana sandwich laced with sugar that my mother had thrown up to me. There was no Whatsapp at that stage. Strike that. I didn’t have a mobile phone. How we coped I don’t know.

Anyway, a few hours later I was pulling up at training at the bottom pitches at St Mick's.

Collie Curran was injured but was floating about. Collie Curran like. Ulster’s Collie Curran. The legend. I remember the journalist Gerry McLaughlin was chatting to him. That’s how press days were done back then. Journalists would amble up the pitch before a training session and talk to a few men.

On the field Raymie Gallagher was shooting at the goals at the side of the pitch. Gerry later wrote in a colour piece that he had watched Raymie kick points that left his boot like “howitzers missiles”. I thought it was a lovely turn of phrase, and the first seeds that journalism might not be a bad profession were sowed. So, you may all blame Gerry.

Monaghan were beaten a few weeks later. I entered the fray with ten minutes to go. Shane McDermott was the other sub used. It was the first tie since 1983 that Fermanagh had won an Ulster Championship game against a side other than Antrim. Collie was on the pitch in his civvies afterwards, leaping about and celebrating with Cormac McAdam.

In the calls for a tiered championship we should not forget how bad things were for some counties before the back door came in in 2001. The back door has helped Fermanagh immeasurably. None of the great days that followed its introduction would have been possible without it.

But anyway, that is an argument for another day. Also, let’s put a cork in the nostalgia for now too.

Fermanagh and Donegal this weekend is a fascinating clash. For so many reasons. Forget the tired argument about Fermanagh’s defensive strategy. It will be in place. Donegal will have plenty flooding back too. And Fermanagh will have plenty flooding forward when in possession. But you won’t hear too many on the pundit circuit talk about either Donegal’s defensive system nor Fermanagh’s attacking strategy. But the truth is that this game will hinge on Fermanagh’s ability to score and Donegal’s ability to stop that from happening.

That might seem a strange argument to make but I think it will be exceptionally hard to keep Donegal below the 14 or 15 point margin and as such Fermanagh’s attack will have to click.

Fermanagh played 14 halves of football in the National League. Leaving aside shot conversion they performed well in 10 of them. Meath in the first half for example, Fermanagh should have been out the gate. Against Kildare, Fermanagh should have won by at least 10 to 12 points. Tipperary should have been an easy victory instead of a scrappy draw. Fermanagh created a lot of chances in those 10 good halves of football. Sometimes they took the majority but often they did not. If we are to win on Sunday, we need to have our shooting boots on.

Shooting is an enigma of a skill. It can be practised and improved upon but there is something innate about it too. When I look at the Fermanagh teams that played in the national league, I don’t see us coming down with innate shooters. That means that when it comes to carving out chances the carving must be precise. Innate shooters can create their own scores at times. And as such relieve pressure, lift teams and produce momentum turning moments. We will need a few of these on Sunday.

So far, the Ulster Championship has produced great excitement and intensity. Clichéd words obviously but that doesn’t make their ringing any less true. Tyrone and Derry was enjoyable and showed the potential of Derry. Cavan and Monaghan heralded the Breffni men’s arrival and was a huge game for them in their development. And then we had Down and Armagh, that had everything and showed that things are done a little bit differently up here.

When you consider Galway reached a Connacht final beating London and Sligo and Cork have one game against Limerick you can see how ridiculously unfair the championship structure is. Yet, as the Ulster Championship keeps producing such thrills and spills who would want to see it gone?

What we are guaranteed on Sunday at Brewster Park is a huge amount of physicality. Fermanagh will bring it and Donegal will match it. The home crowd will play a factor. Teams don’t like coming to Brewster Park and Rory Gallagher’s men will look to amplify that effect by being stifling and not letting the Donegal players breath.

That, of course, is easier said than done. Donegal have improved as the league has gone on and have proved they can score from distance which is the most potent anti-dote to Fermanagh’s defensive style. They can also kick it long however, which will keep the home defence stretched and a team like Donegal offer the most difficulties for Fermanah’s style of play.

And it is for all those reasons that I think Fermanagh must fire in attack. I don’t think we can hope to keep the score down and win a low scoring game. Fermanagh will have to match Donegal in the shooting stakes, and I think we will need goals too.

None of this is insurmountable, although I concede I have more faith in our ability to hit a big score than many pundits out there; then again, I have seen us play this year which rather helps I find.

Fermanagh have no fear of Donegal. Respect yes. But they believe they can cause a shock. And that is half the battle. The other half, well, we will have to wait for Sunday for that.