By Michael McMullan
THE hurt of watching Ryan Connolly’s late winner dissect the posts in last season’s Cavan final added an extra log to the Arva fire over the winter.
They watched on as Drumlane went all the way to an Ulster final they lost to Stewartstown on penalties. The season before that, Cavan champions Denn won the Ulster title.
“Cavan clubs don’t have a good record in Ulster club football, whether it’s senior, intermediate or junior,” said Arva manager Finbar O’Reilly.
“We feel we have a decent team and we’re playing Ballymaguigan on Sunday (Owenbeg, 2pm) and they have a good side and haven’t lost a game all year.
“It’s a long trip; Arva literally sits on the bottom of Ulster on the border with Longford.”
Ballymaguigan have won the league, McGlinchey Cup and championship treble in Derry, winning all their games on the way.
Tomás Brady was the star of the show with a 1-6 haul to sink Moneymore in the Derry decider.
In Cavan, it is a different landscape. Arva were promoted to Division One last season and while they only won two games, playing at a high standard stood to them.
“It was a huge breeding ground and platform for the championship for us, we were favourites from the outset to win it,” O’Reilly admitted.
“Being here tonight (Ulster Championship launch), there is a realisation that you are in the champions’ league and we have a trip to Derry on Sunday and we are looking forward to it.”
Jonathan McCabe featured heavily for the Cavan seniors with Tristan Noack-Hofman seeing game time in the McKenna Cup.
There were also players who came up from the underage, but O’Reilly, in his first season in charge, places last year’s losing feeling as an important factor.
“There was a real sense of unfinished business and the hurt of last year would’ve driven us on,” he said.
“When we got back to the final we felt we weren’t going to be denied a second time – hurt and hunger, you’ll win nothing without it.”
Arva have only conceded one goal in their seven championship games, with an average concession rate of 0-7 against their 2-17 average score.
As long as the draw kept them apart, Knockbride and Arva were expected to grace the final stage in Cavan.
And they did. A Conal Sheridan goal put Arva into a 1-5 to 0-2 lead and on the way to victory with Sheridan adding a second in a 2-11 to 0-9 win.
For Ballymaguigan, their midfield duo of Tomás Kealey and Tom Crozier will play a huge role.
They laid the platform in their crunch game of the season, their semi-final win over Ballerin where Patsy Bateson’s side were left to fend off a late rally.
Michael Spiers and Tomás Brady are the playmakers who will need a steady supply of the ball to ask the questions few in Cavan have been able to ask.
The Breffni men will carry the favourites tag on their long journey to Owenbeg with the winners set for a semi-final against whoever comes through the game between Na Rossa and Lisnaskea.