Arva keen to keep pedal to the floor

By Niall Gartland

NOT to put too fine a point on it but Arva have essentially cantered their way to Saturday’s All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final against Kildare side Milltown.

They have played 11 championship games en route to the last four of the All-Ireland with a winning average of 12 points, but manager Finbar O’Reilly is keen to press home to his charges that one below par performance will spell the end of a remarkable campaign.

They weren’t at their tip-top best in their All-Ireland quarter-final clash against British representative Wandsworth Gaels nearly a month ago, but in truth they didn’t need to be and they still emerged with a comfortable 10-point victory on the scoreboard.

Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final clash in Westmeath against Milltown could call for a more potent performance, and O’Reilly is confident that his players will bring their ‘A’ game to proceedings.

“Ever since we went into the knock-out rounds in Cavan, our approach has been that if we don’t perform our season is over.

“That’s been our approach since the quarter-finals in Cavan and that has not changed.

“If we lose we’re gone, and being mindful of that has kept us sharp. Boys are going full pelt in training and I don’t see any dip in enthusiasm and hunger.

“I feel they’ve looked after themselves over Christmas and we’re not looking past Saturday at all. We’re focused on getting a big performance and hopefully that’ll be enough to take us onto the next stage.”

It’s been a long enough road to this point and there wasn’t much let up over the Christmas period, albeit O’Reilly did grant his players some time off in the wake of their quarter-final win over Wandsworth Gaels.

Opportunities like this don’t come around every day so they’re keen to strike while the iron is hot.

“We played Wandsworth Gaels on the ninth of December and gave our lads the second week of December more or less off.

“We’ve then picked it up again, we trained right through to Christmas and got two solid weeks under our belts. Now we’re in game-week we’re winding back down again. It was a hectic period and the weather conditions didn’t help but we had to move through it as best we could and now we’re only a few days away from the game.”

This has been O’Reilly’s first season in charge of Arva and he’s been hugely impressed with the passion and commitment of club people in the area. The catchment area is small so to reach a first ever All-Ireland final would be a magnificent achievement.

“It’s on the Longford border and it’s hemmed in by a few Longford clubs. Then you have a lot of Cavan clubs coming in on top of it, like Gowna, Lacken, Killeshandra and Cornafean.

“You have the wee town of Arvagh and one or two roads out of it and that’s basically it.

“They’re fantastic GAA people and they’ve been absolutely on top of the world over the last couple of weeks. I’m delighted for them and hopefully we can keep them going for another week or two.”

O’Reilly is a vastly experienced coach and manager but it’s been a novel experience for him as well on a personal level. He’s had to do a crash course on their upcoming opponents Milltown but that’s all part of the fun.

“Milltown are a fit young team and they have a couple of players who’ve lined out for Kildare at underage level.

“They’re on the young side, a lot of lads in their early twenties, so they’ll bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the game.

“Colin O’Shea is a fantastic centre half-back and they’ve some really good forwards.

“They won Leinster and we’ll pay them due respect and it’s a credit to them that they’ve got to this point.”

On the novelty of investigating clubs outside the familiar confines of Cavan, O’Reilly said: “There’s no doubt there’s a novel factor to it, checking out teams in Leinster and keeping a close eye on Munster and Connacht.

“It can be claustrophobic without your own county and you already have some idea of what’s going on in Ulster.

“Getting to this level has brought a whole new dimension, it’s a fresh environment and every game is of huge significance so everyone involved with the club is really relishing the journey.”

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