By Niall Gartland
ARVA have been in imperious form heading into Saturday’s Ulster Junior Championship semi-final against Lisnaskea, but manager Finbar O’Reilly isn’t ready to order the victory bus just yet.
O’Reilly’s side played in Division One in Cavan this year so it was no big shock that they emerged triumphant in the Cavan Junior Championship, but what was a bit more surprising was the manner of their championship triumph, swatting aside a steely Knockbride side with ease in the final.
They haven’t taken their foot off the pedal in Ulster, claiming a comfortable victory over Ballymaguigan in the quarter-finals, and they’re warm favourites to get the better of Lisnaskea in the last four this weekend.
Before taking the reins at Arva, their manager Finbar O’Reilly had stints at senior championship teams Lacken and Kingscourt. This would be a different type of challenge but so far it’s gone very much according to plan.
The St Pat’s Cavan teacher said: “I already knew quite a few of the boys, I was aware Arva are a good side and the fact they’re in Division One made them an attractive prospect.
“I felt that there was a championship in them if they got on a bit of a run, and then possibly have a cut at Ulster, and that’s the way it’s worked out.
“There was an appetite in the team to get up to Intermediate level but we had a few injuries during the league so Division One was tough for us. At the same time it was a good experience for all the lads who got game-time during the league and it’s definitely standing to us now.”
Lisnaskea Emmetts are a proud Fermanagh club that can point to 20 Senior Championship titles on the roll of honour list as well as an All-Ireland Intermediate club title in 2010/11.
The last decade hasn’t been quite so kind but O’Reilly believes they have the ability to cause Arva plenty of problems.
“Lisnaskea are a big club in Fermanagh with a rich history in the Senior Championship. Last year they narrowly missed out on promotion to Division One, it’s very tight in Fermanagh and it just didn’t go for them and they were relegated into the Junior Championship.
“That type of thing can happen sometimes and they’re by no means a Junior club in terms of stature or population.
“They’re a dangerous outfit and a big physical side. They’re a typical Fermanagh team, hard-working and honest and blessed with a couple of really strong, seasoned players. I can tell you that it ain’t going to be easy for us.”
Elaborating on their string of resounding victories since the very outset of the Cavan championship, O’Reilly said: “We did have a couple of sticky outings in the group stages but we have been going well and were really geared up for the final against Knockbride. We knew we would have to be at our very best to beat them and that’s what transpired, it was probably our best performance in the championship to date.
“There was a huge sense of relief attached to getting out of Cavan and it’s really exciting to be involved in Ulster, it’s a great challenge for us.”