Arva hoping to land their first ever provincial title

By Niall Gartland

ARVA have barely sustained a scratch en route to Saturday’s Ulster Junior Championship final against Blackhill.

They cruised through the Cavan Championship and it’s been a similar story in Ulster, claiming comfortable victories over Ballymaguigan and Lisnaskea in recent weeks.

For what it’s worth, they played Division One football in Cavan this year, but it’s unlikely to be a walk in the park on Saturday against a Blackhill side fielding in their third Ulster Junior Championship final in less than a decade.

It’s the two best teams in the competition coming head-to-head, something that is acknowledged by Arva boss Finbar O’Reilly, an experienced manager who has been enlisted as selector by new Cavan boss Raymond Galligan.

O’Reilly said: “That’s probably a fair point. Both teams won our games to date relatively comfortably and now we’re coming up against each other in the final.

“It won’t be easy but it’s an Ulster final and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve no doubt they will be as well, so that’s it, bring it on.”

One slight source of irritation is the short turnaround to this weekend’s final. Arva have only seven days to prepare following their semi-final win over Lisnaskea, and it’s not an ideal state of affairs, truth be told.

O’Reilly said: “It is difficult, we’re coming to the end of a long season. Two weeks would have been a lovely run-in, we could’ve got plenty of training and video work done and an opportunity to rest both physically and mentally.

“When you have only six or seven days to get ready, that’s not really an option. You’re fast-tracking your way into the match. It is what it is and we just have to do our best in the time we have.”

Blackhill have sauntered their way to the final with one-sided victories over Rasharkin and Fintona. They’re a formidable outfit and can call upon many of the players that won the Ulster Junior title outright back in 2019.

“They’ve a good side, they’ve lots of pace and young (Philip) Donnelly up front has been tearing it up, he’s caused mayhem for teams.

“They’re a hard-working honest team, they’re a tight-knit team and have had great success. They’ve an Ulster title in the bag so we’re under no illusions of what’s coming for us.”

Arva booked their spot in the final with a 1-11 to 0-4 win over Lisnaskea. They had plenty to spare but it wasn’t an easy day out either as the Fermanagh side stationed plenty of men at the back and plenty of patience was required.

“Ach look, it was defensive stuff,” said O’Reilly. “I think Lisnaskea set out to limit our impact at the game, they conceded the kick-out and sat 14 men deep.

“The conditions in Clones played into that as well, it was a wet day. It was a slow burner of a game but we got through it, we got the final scores and our ‘keeper made a couple of fantastic saves to keep them out.

“We had to be patient but we used possession well and our shot-selection was good. It’s difficult facing a team like that over the course of 60 minutes, it takes a lot of concentration and patience. It wasn’t pretty but it was all about getting over the line and into the final.”

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