My Club: Ciaran Brady - St. Patrick's, Arvagh
In our latest ‘My Club’ feature, Cavan senior football Ciaran Brady tells us all about St. Patrick’s, Arvagh GAA club.
By John Harrington
Football has a long history in Arvagh, County Cavan. The Arvagh Davitts were formed in 1886 making it one of the first clubs in the county.
They eventually joined forces with Cormore Sons of St. Patrick’s in 1964, and so St. Patrick’s, Arvagh GAA club was born.
Arvagh is a border town in the truest sense of the word, as it straddles the location where the three provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Connacht all meet.
A rural area with a small pick of players, Arvagh have maximised their resources in recent years by winning the Cavan Junior (2014) and Intermediate (2016) Championships.
Q: Ciaran, where exactly in Cavan is Arvagh GAA club located?
A: We're on the Longford-Leitrim border. We'd be south-west Cavan, beside Gowna on the border, actually where the three provinces meet.
Q: Can you remember your first involvement with the club?
A: I suppose at U-8s level there were only three in my age-group so it would be a small enough club and in years gone past we were a junior club.
Cyril Sheridan and Brian Ellis would have been over us and our primary school principal Vincent Mulvey were the main people who would have gotten us involved.
Q: Had you much success at underage level?
A: We did. We had success at U-12 and U-14 and then at U-16, that was the big one. We joined with Killeshandra, a neighbouring club, and became an amalgamation called St. Joseph's and got to a Division 1 Championship Final that we lost after a replay to Cavan Gaels, the town team.
I suppose that leapfrogged a lot of our club players onto the county minor team and then in 2011 we won the county minor.
That amalgamated team would also have won an U-21 Championship and got to the Ulster Final against Watty Grahams, so we would have played against Ciaran McFaul and Conor Glass who's out in Australia.
That would have us a lot of self belief and got a lot of our players onto county teams.
Q: The club currently plays in the Intermediate Championship in Cavan, is that right?
A: Yeah, we just got relegated from senior last year. We won the Junior Championship in 2014 and the Intermediate Championship in 2016. We were in four finals in a row. We were in the Junior Final in 2013, lost it. Then the Junior Final in 2014 again and won it. Then the Intermediate Final in 2015, lost it. Then the Intermediate Final again in 2016 and won it.
Then 2017 was our first year up in the Senior Championship and we were relegated. They changed the structures in Cavan to three teams getting relegated last year and we had a bad draw. It was seeded and we got Cavan Gaels who would win the Championship, Castlerahan who were county finalists, and Ramor who won it in 2017. We just didn't get any luck with the draw.
Q: That was a fair achievement - to go from being a Junior to Senior club in the space of four years.
A: It was. The amalgamation with Killeshandra at underage really leapfrogged a lot of us into the big-time. It made us improve as footballers, and that was key.
We're a very young team. My older brother was the captain of the team that won the Junior Championship and he was 26 and would have been the oldest player, bar the goalie. The average age of the team is till only 24 or 25 now, but when we won the Junior Championship it was down around 21.
Q: I'd imagine it was huge for the club to win Junior and Intermediate Championships in such quick succession? Had it been a long time since the club had previously been successful?
A: It had been. My father was actually the captain in '83 when they previously won the Intermediate. We had most recently won the Junior Championship in '94 and that was the last time we had any success.
It's a small town, you're talking a mile out every road and you're into a different parish. We're surrounded by senior clubs - Gowna in Cavan and Dromard and Colmcilles in Longford. Colmcilles are winning senior championships in Longford year in, year out, and Gowna obviously beside us the same. It's a football heartland, that's for sure.
Q: Did the progression to the senior championship come a little soon for a young team?
A: We had been on a long journey. We were four years getting to county finals. Four county finals in a row. And then the fifth year was the first year in the senior championship and I suppose even though we're a young team we had clocked up a lot of mileage.
It's a big regret to this day that we went down a lot easier than we should have gone down. We had a couple of injuries and that didn't help because we wouldn't have a big panel at all. You'd be fighting with lads to come out to have a junior team, there wouldn't be big numbers in the parish.
Q: Presumably everyone is determined to bounce straight back up to senior by winning the intermediate this year?
A: Yeah, we'd be looking to get straight back up to the top ranks quickly. If you get down into a division and get comfortable then you can end up staying there and you don't make any progress. Hopefully we can drive it on again.
Q: If the average age of the team is only 24 or 25, then there are reasons to be optimistic?
A: Yeah, definitely. Hopefully we can make it happen.