SATURDAY, March 7 was the last day of Fermanagh and Western football before everything closed down due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Since then, we have had off-the-field wranglings over the way to end the season and, after a lengthy appeal, an average points per game formula was used to finish the season with the clubs also deciding on no relegation.

Now, we can concentrate again on action on the field as the race for the Mercer Cup kicks off this Saturday.

After such a long lay-off from competitive action, clubs will be looking forward to getting going and each club will have hopes and ambitions of doing well in the new season.

When all was concluded for last season it was Tummery Athletic who were declared Mercer League champions for the first time ever and, having got that monkey off their back, Ryan Hanna is looking for his side to make another title charge this season.

They will begin the campaign among the favourites and you can be sure that Athletic will be keen to prove that they are the best over the course of the full season, and that they were deserving champions last time around.

Tummery have quality all over the pitch in the likes of player manager Hanna, Aidy McCaffrey, Ruairi Sludden and Ciaran Beacom, while the addition of Gary Henderson will give them added steel in the middle of the park.

However, they will know that as champions they will have a target on their back this season, and there will be a number of teams who will be eyeing up the title for themselves.

Top of that list is Enniskillen Rangers and Michael Kerr’s side will be there or thereabouts at the end of this season.

Tummery denied them a three in a row last season, and the ’Gers will be keen to get back on top of the pile when the prizes are handed out at the end of this season.

This is a squad laced with quality, experience and winning know-how and they will be expected to be contenders.

Richard Johnston and Neil Coulter give them a strong presence at the back, while further forward they will look to the likes of Ciaran Smith, Stuart Rainey, Mark Cutler and Jason Keenan.

Another side who will be hoping to be in the mix when the season reaches the business end is Enniskillen Town.

James McKenna has come on board as joint manager alongside Rory Judge, and he will provide a different voice and a different perspective on things.

Last season, Town were flying up to Christmas, but fell away thereafter and they will be keen to sustain their push for much longer this time around.

Shane McCabe has been brought in and he will give them not only experience but quality in the middle of the park, while Conor Watson has returned to the club after a successful spell with Rangers.

Town have assembled a strong squad which should give them the depth to cope with the demands of the season and they will be expected to be pushing the leaders come the end of the campaign.

NFC Kesh made good progress last year under Scott Robinson, and they are aiming to push on again this season.

Indeed, they have signalled their intent by bringing Nathan Cashel back to the club from Ballinamallard, with Cashel a scorer and creator of goals while goalkeeper Stefan McCusker is also a shrewd addition.

With Mark Jones showing no signs of letting up just yet, expect Kesh to be in contention.

These four are tipped by most as being the frontrunners but others will also feel that they can make a push at the top end of the table.

Strathroy Harps, under Kevin Sloan, will always be a threat even though they are going through something of a transition, but they will be looking to finish as high up the table as possible.

A number of other teams fall into the same category with the likes of Magheraveely, Beragh Swifts Irvinestown Wanderers and Lisbelllaw United looking to push on certainly up into the top half of the table, or at least safe from the scrap at the bottom of the table.

That scrap at the bottom could be intriguing – although with clubs voting against relegating four teams, at least there is some breathing space for those down there.

Dergview and Omagh Hospitals will both be aiming for better this season, having finished in the bottom two last season, while Killen were also close to the drop zone.

For all these clubs, avoiding the bottom two will be the number-one target.

A lot will therefore depend on the two teams coming up from Division Two.

Both teams will enter their first seasons in the top flight of Fermanagh and Western football, and they will be confident that they can hold their own and secure their status in the division.

Certainly, Anthony Fitzpatrick has a squad there that, once the gaelic commitments are finished in the next couple of weeks, are capable of springing a surprise or two over the course of the season.