By Niall Gartland
ARVA were the form team heading into this year’s Junior Championship, but their manager Gabriel Keogan knows that Knockbride will be a tough nut to crack when they duke it out for a place in the final this weekend.
Having achieved promotion during the summer months, Keogan’s side will play in Division One next season, but they could only manage a draw when they played Knockbride in the group stages of the championship.
Arva were also made to work extremely hard for their quarter-final win over Shannon Gaels, a game that hung in the balance until the final whistle, so they know it’s highly unlikely to be a walk in the park when they renew acquaintances with Knockride.
“If you look at how it’s gone, there’s three teams who played in Division Two in the semi-finals (Arva, Knockbride and Drumlane) as well as a club that got promoted from Division Three (Drumalee). The formlines have stayed pretty constant in the championship.
“We had a one-sided win over Knockbride in the league, but they were missing one of their main scoring forwards that day (Sean Burns) and we got a bit of a run on them with two early goals.
“In the group stages we went eight points ahead of them and they clawed it back and it ended up a draw.
“All three of the teams remaining are very capable outfits. There was loose talk from outside our camp that ‘we’re going to walk Junior this year, no-one will get near us’ but I definitely knew that wouldn’t be the case. Drumlane reached the Division Two semi-finals and Knockbride have been competitive in every game. They’ve a top class manager in Aidan McCabe, he managed the Cavan ladies in the past and he’s a top fella.”
Arva stumbled past Shannon Gaels in the quarter-finals on a scoreline of 1-9 to 0-9 but they’ve had a fortnight to prepare for their semi-final and Keogan hopes they’ll be able to call upon Kevin Bouchier, who is recovering from a broken hand.
“It was a fiece tight game against Shannon Gaels, we couldn’t really get away from them. The game was played in fierce bad conditions and we didn’t play that well. We’d really need to up our form if we’re to take down Knockbride.
“We’ve had a few injuries but they seem to be clearing up. We didn’t chance Kevin Bouchier in the quarter-final, he’s an important forward for us. He broke his hand in an earlier round. Hopefully we’ll be at full tilt.”