Motivation might not have been easy during lockdown but with dates set for the resumption of the club and county game James McMahon is relishing what is sure to be a different type of season.

The Roslea and Fermanagh defender has trained away on his own during the last three months and now he is looking forward to getting back out on the training pitch and to playing games.

“For a long time there we were keeping ourselves ticking over but we had no real end date in sight or no date to work towards so last week when we got a plan in place, or as much as we can at the minute, it sort of gets that hunger back again for getting back at it.

“To be honest, a month ago I didn’t think there was going to be any football but you have to keep yourself ticking over. The way I was looking at it I was that even if there was going to be no football this year, if I didn’t do the work now I’m knocking myself back for the following year,” he said.

The lockdown came at a time when footballers are usually gearing up for summer and the buzz of the championship and McMahon acknowledges that it was strange not to have had that.

“The longer evenings, the good weather and the ground getting harder you associate it with championship football. This is the time of the year that you can’t wait to get training and the time that makes October, November and December worth it.

“It just reminds you of big championship games in Brewster and elsewhere and that’s why you put in the hard yards in winter time. So to have all this without matches and not even training collectively it is strange,” he said.

There is though light now at the end of the tunnel.

Club football will return with first games due to be played from July 31 and McMahon is looking forward to getting going with the Shamrocks.

“Our walking track around Roslea is back open and I was in walking around it one evening last week and it really whet the appetite for getting back to playing club football,” commented McMahon.

The club season is set to be played over an 11 week spell and James believes shortened campaign will likely suit many of the Roslea players.

“That’s good and it probably suits a team like ourselves in Roslea as we have a lot of boys who are maybe coming towards the end of their career and the potential of a shortened game based season might appeal to them and hopefully keep them on board for another year.

“Then again, the nature of the season, because it is going to be so short, it is whoever hits the ground running. If you start off well and get a bit of momentum you have the potential to have a great season whereas vice versa, if you lose the first couple of matches, I’m not too sure what the format is going to be and whether there is going to be promotion or relegation, then you are in trouble and all of a sudden the season can slip away. I think it will appeal to a lot of players though to have a shortened game based season,” he added.

It will then be into the inter-county season with county squads due to return to training from September 14. That crossover period though between when county squads can return and the end of the club season is one that McMahon would like more clarity on.

“That grey area around when county squads are allowed to start to training but they overlap with the club season, I think that’s the one big issue that needs clearing up because there is no question that a lot of counties out there are going to be abusing that and I don’t know what the best way is to get around it.”

The GAA has yet to release their plans for the inter-county season but it has been speculated that they will begin by running off the last two rounds of the National League. McMahon is happy to finish off the league but does not feel that it should be the first two games played.

“I don’t really agree with that and I know that is easy for me to say because we weren’t going well and the two games were massive for us.

“I appreciate that some counties are keen to get the league finished and I do agree that it needs to get finished for the integrity of the thing but having gone from not playing with each other for six months to then be given two weeks to train together and play two huge games, I don’t think it’s fair. If anything I think it should be finished in place of the pre-season competitions next year or prior to the 2021 league next year as it gives teams a chance get training together and get things going.

“They are not even season defining games, they really can define a couple of years at county level. For ourselves, if we were to slip down to Division Three that would be a huge dent to our hopes and ambitions.”

This year’s championship may be at a different time of the year but for McMahon, winning an Ulster title is still the main goal, whenever it will be played.

“It always will remain the goal for as long as it eludes us. I seen recently that it was two years since the Monaghan semi final win and that brings back good memories but they are bitter sweet because you would give anything to go back to those three weeks before the Ulster Final to get another crack at that and have the chance to go through the situation again.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and you have to move on and learn the lesson and give it a massive crack every year. We have always looked on the championship as just the Ulster Championship. That is the massive focus, if you win you move on to the next round and if you lose you try and regroup for the qualifiers but we would always look first and foremost to the Ulster Championship and no matter what format it is in or what time of the year, it is a massive competition for us and something that we want to give a real good rattle,” he added.