To outsiders, the Ulster Senior Football Championship was an unloved and unlovely thing.

The big ball game in the north was a parochial affair and the charms of a dogged afternoon in Clones were purely local.

Newly minted European champions Liverpool have been marketing themselves under the slogan 'This Means More' recently and it’s certainly a banner that fits with Ulster football.

The game in the province is a complicated beast, partially wrapped up as it is in the identity of people who are Irish but live on the other side of a border. It really does mean more and that was illustrated by games of eye-popping intensity and occasional spite.

Ulster football men have long been amongst the great innovators of the GAA and the recent trend towards blanket defences, safety-first, avoiding risks and double sweepers, most of which started in the north, has made it a hard watch for the uninitiated.

For the neutrals, the only provincial championship worth watching was the Munster Senior Hurling Championship.

Oddly, these two tournaments from different sports and at the opposite end of the country have shared a link as the two most competitive and closely contested inter-county competitions that the GAA possess.

In fact, it was the pair of them that held back the revolutionising of fixtures and structures within the Association. Croke Park was loath to tinker with either for fear of breaking something unique.

Michael Walsh reacts to another heavy defeat for Waterford

The Association finally bit the bullet and last year the Munster SHC was reorganised into a round-robin group of five teams. What we got was a rip-roaring, rollicking few weeks of hurling in the early summer.  

How could Ulster compete with this? Well, it couldn’t. The 2018 Ulster SFC wasn’t one of the classics and produced few memorable moments; even Fermanagh’s achievement of making a rare final appearance came after on obdurately defensive display against Monaghan.

So it should be little surprise that the television cameras and the headline writers have concentrated their gaze on Thurles, the Gaelic Grounds, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Walsh Park and Cusack Park this summer.

But while they were looking the other way Ulster football has blossomed.

"The Ulster championship has always been the most competitive of the provincial championships; this year in terms of quality it’s the best I have seen in ten or 12 years," said Pat Spillane on the Sunday Game.

Pat is many things, but an Ulster football-lover is not something he has ever been accused of before.

"We’ve had Cavan-Monaghan, Down-Armagh and this game (Cavan-Armagh) - all superb games. Whisper it quietly; this year the football championship has given us better quality, more entertainment and more intense games than the hurling," he remarked.

And Pat isn’t wrong. While Munster remains interesting and the table shows that there are still four teams trying to squeeze into the three spots in the All-Ireland series, games have been poor and results lop-sided.

The average winning margin in the competition so far in 2019 has been 11 points and three of six matches to date have resulted in significant double-digit defeats.

By contrast, in Ulster, two of the five games so far have gone to extra-time, we have the Armagh-Cavan replay to look forward to next weekend and the clash of Tyrone-Donegal - two teams nurturing genuine All-Ireland ambitions.

Afternoons spent in traffic jams coming into Clones, a pre-match meet-up around the Diamond and a few hours in the sunken bowl that is St Tiernach’s Park aren’t for everyone. But maybe it’s time to give Ulster football another chance.

As Ciaran Whelan noted beside Spillane on The Sunday Game panel at the weekend: "Football is coming out of recession, we’ve come a long way since puke football."