The year 2000. Now that’s not today or yesterday. It started with a sigh of relief as the Millennium Bug that threatened the world failed to materialise. Craig David took over the charts, although where he found the time with the amount of drinking he did mid-week I’ll never know, let alone the rest of his shenanigans. He must have worked from home is all I can say. Ahead of his time was Craig.

Elsewhere reality TV exploded onto our screens with the first series of Big Brother. Oh how we loved to watch strangers lie around a garden doing nothing. Pool oul nasty Nick got way too much flack for writing a lock of names on a piece of paper if you ask me.

On the technology front, the mobile phone moved from an unnecessary accessory to a must have appendage. The Nokia 3310 was the device of the masses as we chased a tiny grey dot around the screen with an ever increasing thin grey line.

Cargo pants were all the fashion among young fellas. Usually light brown or navy in colour and with more pockets than were ever possibly needed. A recipe for losing things is all they were in my mind.

On the sporting front the Sydney Olympics took place and closer to home Kerry won the Sam Maguire after a replay against Galway while Kilkenny hammered Offaly in the hurling final.

2000 was also the last time the Ulster Senior Championship was knock out. Fermanagh lost in the semi-final to Armagh after the Orchard defenders took turns fouling Stevie Maguire for the 70 plus minutes. Armagh won the final defeating Derry.

This column fully realises that to most people under 30 much of the above is all rather strange. Oh, the joys of the innocence of youth. And speaking of youthful innocence that is very much the mantra for Fermanagh this week with Down coming to visit in the championship.

A loss and the season is over. A win and a semi-final beckons against the winners of Cavan and Antrim. It could be worse.

Fermanagh manager, Ryan McMenamin has been dealt perhaps the most difficult hand of any of the managers in Ulster due to the unprecedented year that we have been experiencing. Through a combination of losing personnel and his own convictions McMenamin is set to field an extremely young side this Sunday, and to be honest I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

The game against Down represents something of a free shot. There is no pressure on Fermanagh and there should be zero fear as well.

Down did get promoted from division three and Fermanagh did get relegated from division two but I don’t believe there is any difference in the two sides in terms of ability. This is an eminently winnable game.

Fermanagh actually played some very good football in their last two league games and given the constraints placed upon them by Covid-19 there was a lot of positives to take from both performances. Against Clare they perhaps should have won, and against Laois it is hard to understand how they didn’t.

In defence the loss of the Cullen twins has been felt, there is no point saying otherwise. They were Fermanagh’s best two man markers.

But for long periods against Laois in particular, the full back line of Luke Flanagan, Kane Connor and Johnny Cassidy looked very secure. There is an obvious lack of height in that trio but in terms of man marking, coupled with the ability to break from defence there is a lot of potential.

Cassidy and Flanagan represent some of the younger players we have spoken of before. Cassidy has proved he has what it takes at this level already and Flanagan looked very at home in both those league games. I particularly like the Derrylin man’s ability to get ahead of the ball, something other Fermanagh players could learn a thing or two about. He doesn’t always receive the pass but he pulls opposition players out of position creating one on ones for team mates.

He also has a huge engine in that small frame to get up and down.

That pace and ability to cover ground is something that Fermanagh need to replicate all across the pitch and it is these traits which have impressed me most about the younger players in the team. We cannot afford to be laboured against Down. We need to go at it.

In attack Tomas Corrigan is looking sharper and I think both Lorcan McStravick and Daragh McGurn are close to breaking out. And around the middle there is a wealth of experience. Players like Aidan Breen, Declan McCusker, Ryan Jones and Eoin Donnelly have all been there and done it in terms of proving they are as good as anyone in Ulster.

The challenge for those players is to really throw the shackles off and have a cut at things. I don’t mean to abandon defensive duties or anything like that. We still need numbers back when not in possession and we still need to be compact when defending. That is a given. But rather when we have the ball we need to be really expansive. Pace, pace and more pace is what is needed to beat Down. In possession we need to have width and equally importantly we need players getting forward ahead of the ball. We cannot stand still and play pass the parcel. Let’s have a real go at Down. As I said before we have nothing to lose.

And as for us supporters, it will be strange not to be able to go along and watch Fermanagh play. But let’s take a leaf out of Craig David’s book. What did he do of a Sunday? That’s right. Chill. Let’s relax and enjoy the game and enjoy the fact we have championship football to watch at all.