Brady keen to grasp All-Ireland opportunity

By Niall Gartland

DON’T let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low. Arva captain Ciaran Brady knows all about it.

His playing career at both club and county has been of the unpredictable variety, it’s fair to say. With Cavan, he pocketed an Ulster medal in 2020, their first provincial triumph in a quarter of a century. Two years later, they found themselves in the doldrums of Division Four. In between times, he did his ACL while playing in a National League match.

With Arva, it’s been a similar story. Brady played in the Senior, Intermediate and Junior Championship, they’ve won finals, they’ve lost them and now he finds himself at the forefront of the biggest day in the club’s history – leading his side onto the hallowed turf of Croke Park in Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior Championship final against Listowel (a Kerry side…it always seems to be a Kerry side).

So it’s been an eventful few years for ‘Holla’, who says he’s kept positive even during the lean-times.

“I did my ACL in May 2021 in our second game back in the league. The same year both Cavan and Arva were relegated so it was a triple whammy. It was a tough year to be stuck on the sidelines

“But I suppose I was motivated by the prospect of getting back on the field and helping to lift things and thankfully Cavan have achieved back-to-back promotions and Arva won the Junior Championship in Cavan.

“You have to keep the head up. In football you suffer more losses than victories. In any given year, there’s only going to be one winner so you can’t let yourself get down about the whole thing and you have to look to the future.”

Arva is situated in the centre of the drumlin belt on the border of Longford and Leitrim but other than that, it’s typical of any other little village the length and breadth of Ireland. It isn’t particularly big, it’s fairly remote and the people love their GAA. They’ve tasted success here and there over the years but nothing can possibly compare to their present run to the cusp of All-Ireland glory.

“We’re an ordinary rural village, we’re typical in that respect but we’re also at the point where the three provinces meet, we border both Longford and Leitrim,” said Brady.

“We’re a small club, we’ve been around for a long time and we’ve been up and down the various ranks. We had a brief stint in the senior championship in 2017 but since then we’ve had our good and bad days and Sunday is definitely the peak.

“It is pretty special, it’s uncharted territory for ourselves. We’re also the first Cavan club in a long time to be heading to an All-Ireland final in Croke Park, so it’s huge for the community, and huge for everyone who’s put in an awful lot of work in the club over the years.”

One potential sticking point is the short turnaround to Sunday, having overcome Kildare-based Milltown in their semi-final clash last weekend. Eight days isn’t ideal preparation time for a game of such unprecedented magnitude for the club, and Brady is concerned that the game could come too soon for a few players harbouring knocks and niggles.

“It’s been tough, we were straight back into recovery mode and that’s all we can really do this week. I’m sure a lot of club officers and people around the town are in last-minute mode getting preparations ready for Sunday.

“It is a tight turnaround and we’d have liked another week to get bodies right. Ultimately, it’s the biggest day in the club’s history and it’d be a shame for a couple of lads to miss it through injury when one extra week would make a massive difference.”

Managing the team is experienced coach and manager Finbar O’Reilly (pictured), who just so happens to be part of Cavan’s new senior intercounty set-up spearheaded by Raymond Galligan. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table and Brady hopes he stays on as Arva boss after Sunday.

“Finbar is held in very high esteem throughout Cavan. He’s had big roles on the club scene, he won a MacRory Cup with St Pat’s of Cavan. Raymond has a role with him, what that role is I’m not sure yet, and we’ll hope he’ll stay with us next season too. We’re nearly into this season already so we hope he stays, he’s done a great job with us and that’s evident in the position we find ourselves in.”

Kerry teams are way out in front of the roll of honour list in the All-Ireland Junior Championship having produced 11 different winners, so naturally enough Listowel will be expected to continue in that tradition. At the same time, Arva have been comfortable victors in all their championship games so they’ll hold a quiet confidence that they can break the chain.

“Kerry have the most wins at both Junior and Intermediate level and I’m sure they’ll be a typical Kerry team who love to kick the ball and play pure football, that’s what they do. Listowel is a big area and I’ve no doubt they’ll be favourites. I’m not sure how many Kerry panellists they have but you can’t really go by that as Kerry is a big county with a large pick. We’ll be under no illusions about the task in front of us but we’re looking forward to it.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW