GAA in the Arva Area
In 1884 the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in Hayes Hotel in Thurles and in late 1885 or early 1886 Ballyconnell First Ulsters became the first official club in both Cavan and Ulster.
The Arva Davitts Club was formed in 1886 making it one of the first clubs in the County. Clubs at that time tended to use the name of some National figure, e.g. Cornafean Tom Moroneys, Knights of Freedom Carrick/Finea, Baileboro Home Rulers, Sextons Ballintemple, National Leaguers -Killeshandra.
In a Special Branch crime report of 1891 in Dublin Castle the police claimed that many G.A.A. members were also members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (LR.B.) or the Ribbonmen. Arva Davitts at that time were reported as having 60 members in the LR.B.
The Cormore Sons of St. Patrick Club was formed in the early 1900’s and both clubs competed with one another over the years for a limited supply of players, with neither side capable of reaching its full potential. The fact that Arva is bordered by Counties Longford and Leitrim with the Cornafean and Gowna Clubs coming in very close has meant that the club exists on a very small base. In earlier years the local shops etc. employed over 30 people who lived in the town. This gave the club more choice. Today however those people working in the town all travel from home so the available pool of players is very small.
In 1964 the Arva and Cormore Clubs joined forces under the name St. Patrick’s G.F.C. and have had limited success in the interim. Arva’s best years on the playing fields were in the early 1940’s and the 1980’s when it could justifiably be said they had one of the best senior teams in the County. Unfortunately they were always short one or two players and Senior Championship success has so far eluded the Club.
The first Championship title to come to the club was in 1933 when they won the Junior Championship with what was acknowledged at the time as one of the best teams ever to win a junior title. The team included teenagers Danny Kerrigan and Mickey Cully along with Jack Looby, Jim Larkin, Jack Martin, Phil Mulligan, Charlie Gormley, Robbie Lord, Jim Smith, Peter Kennedy, Patsy Mc Guinness, Frank Corcoran, Peter and Owen McKenna and Gussie Mulligan.
Two years later Arva won the Minor Championship and in 1937 when Cavan won their first (of two) Minor All Irelands there were four representatives from Main Street, Arva on the team. Fr Harry Bouchier was Captain and played at left half forward, John Joe Brady (now Benny Fitzpatrick’s) was in goals, and Barney Cully (just 16) was at full back with his brother Tom in left full back position. They got a tremendous reception when they returned, firstly to Cavan Railway Station where many Arva people had travelled in to meet them, and again when got home to Arva. Cavan retained the Minor title in 1938 and Barney Cully became one of three Cavan footballers to win two Minor All Ireland finals. Cully was still a minor in 1939 when Cavan were beaten in the Ulster Championship. In the same year he was the mainstay of the Arva team that again won the County Minor Championship. In 1937 some senior Arva players lined out for Cornafean and helped that club to win the Senior Championship.
Moving into the 1940’s, Arva won a Senior League in 1942 and 1943 but were beaten in the Championship semi-final on four successive occasions by the eventual winners of the title. One game of note was the semi-final of 1941 when Arva played Cavan Slashers in Killeshandra. After a great hour of football the game ended in a draw with the Slashers winning the replay in Breffni Park after one of Arva’s best players (Hughie Lynch) had to go off injured. The Slashers went on to win the Senior Championship. The present Cathedral in Cavan was under construction at that time and the Slashers line out resembled an Interprovincial team. Players included Benny Hunt (Laois & Leinster), Mick Fallon (Galway & Connacht), Frank Dowling (Kildare & Leinster), James Ghann (Tipperary & Munster), T.P. O’Reilly ( Cavan & Ulster), John Johnston (Cavan), Joe Greenan (father of Michal) Cavan, M.J. Sonny Magee (Cavan and Ulster) and Paddy “Freezer” Conaghty (Capt. Cavan) -a total of seven Railway Cup Stars and two County Players. The Arva team would have included Frank & Con Bouchier, Mickey, Tom & Barney Cully, John Joe Cassidy, Phil Mulligan, Hughie & Jack Lynch, Seamus Morris, Harry Rogers Mullinaghta (worked in Morris’s Drapery), Billy Cashin (worked in Mc Gurk’s Victualler), Tom O’Malley Mayo (worked in Mc Cauley’s), Paddy Reilly (Hughie) Drumhaldry, and Jim Gormley. Joe Stafford played later in the ’40’s when he worked in Cullys.
The Connore Club lapsed in the early 1930’s and was reformed in 1946. They won their only championship in 1957 when they defeated Belturbet in the Junior Final. They were led by their inspiring Captain and fullback Christy Morris and included players like Joe Mulligan, Seamus Sorohan, John P. Burns, J.C. and P.J. Sm1th, Paddy, Phil, James & John Joe Brady, Jimmy Smith, Jack and Hughie Lynch, Ned Gormley, Red Paddy Brady, Fathers Eddie & Benny Burns, Benny Morris, Hugh & Pat Leddy, Tommy Reilly, Paddy Finnegan, Paddy & John Sheridan, Peter Boylan, Mickey & Thomas Mc Keever.
Arva lapsed for a number of years and was reformed in 1962, reaching the Junior Championship Semi Final where they were defeated by Killinkere in Breffni Park.
In 1964 the Arva and Connore Clubs joined forces under the name St. Patrick’s G.F.C. and played in the Intermediate grade for most of the intervening years. They won the Intermediate League in 1966 but were defeated in the Championship final of 1966 and 1969 by Castlerahan and Drumalee respectively. In 1969 they joined with Killeshandra to form a group team to play in the Senior Championship and the St. Joseph’s Club was formed. This was a great team that gave the famous Crosserlough team a rare fright in a Senior County final and won many prestigious tournaments of that time including the John Joe O’Reilly Tournament -Cornafean, the Ballinamore Gold Watch Tournament against some of the strongest clubs in Cavan, Leitrim and Longford.
This was the first group team in these counties and maybe in the country and was followed by many others as the clubs involved retained their own status either Junior or Intermediate and played in their own championships. This group team had another tremendous benefit for the area in that it brought the two clubs much closer and that friendship has remained down the years. They have played under St. Joseph’s Banner in various underage competitions and just this summer (1998) the Senior amalgamation played again and included Cornafean players so joining the entire parish.
1972 was certainly a year to remember in Arva football history in that they opened their new playing pitch and dressing rooms on Sunday 14th May. The grounds were dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Cully who died just three years previously on 7th May aged just 52 years. He was a tremendous character and was extremely well known over many parts of the county. While he never said much about it many people believe he was the winner of championship medals in both Longford and Leitrim as well as in Cavan. It would not have been legal then but people were not as well known in the 40’s.
Prior to the opening of the pitch Arva teams played in Hollybank, Larkins Gust across the river from Cyril Sheridan’s house), Malones (where the factory was built) and the showfield. Cormore played in Kilkenny’s, Sheridan’s and Fleming’s field at various times.
Thanks to the efforts of Arva Development Association a factory was secured for the area in 1969 and Maloney’s field was deemed the most suitable site. The football club immediately gave up its tenancy of the field and from then to the opening of the new park played in Kilkenny’s field. Con Bouchier offered a portion of his land for a football field and the club purchased it for £2,500.00. It is interesting to note that it was also used as a football field when in the possession of its previous owner -Mr. Morton. An appeal was launched and in two months over £2,000 was raised and the committee set about developing the grounds. The committee at that time was: Chairman -Tom Cully Snr., Secretary -Seamus Morris, Treasurer -Sean Connelly. Much credit must also go to the then Garda Sergeant Mick McCaughey, a native of Trillick, Co. Tyrone. He gave great leadership and encouraged many people to give of their time voluntarily for this development.
It must be recorded that in line with the great community spirit that always existed in this area many of the workers were from the “minority religions” and all worked side by side to get the development finished. Mick organised the first ever “Tops of the Town” (long before John Player became involved) to help raise funds and he was composer, producer etc. The show would usually run for three or four nights and the hall would be booked out in advance. It was a great success with many memorable sketches and the show ran annually for many years. Another man who gave tremendous commitment to the park was Sean Conneely who organised many schemes over the years and it was Sean who organised the building of the stand using a government grant scheme.
The Gowna Club lapsed in 1972 and the players joined Arva with great success as they won the Intermediate Championship later that year with Big Brian Brady (Gurteen) the Captain. This was also the year that St. Patrick’s College won their only All Ireland Title (The Hogan Cup), beating St. Brendan’s Killarney in the final. Michael English was a prominent member of that team. The Gowna Club reformed in 1978 and there were many memorable duels over the next ten years.
During the late ’70s and early ’80s Arva had a unique arrangement where they played Coleraine University on a home and away basis each year. It was arranged by Mervyn Elder from the University who is married to Rosemarie Stephens, Brucehall. Red Paddy Brady was friendly with Mervyn and that is how it started. The Coleraine team included Adrian Logan (UTV), Big Willie McKenna and other prominent players from that era. They played an ArvalDromard selection at the John Joe Donohue Park in Dromard for the Heslin Cup in 1976.
In 1981 Arva/Killeshandra won the Minor Championship defeating Cavan Gaels in the final and Arva won the Minor league defeating Gowna in the final. Most of these players formed the backbone of the Arva team for the next 15 years and gave great entertainment to the supporters over those years.
In 1983 Arva won the Intermediate Championship and Division Two of the league while they also won the Division Two final again in 1985. In 1983 & 1984 they were defeated in the Under 21 Championship finals by Crosserlough· on both occasions. The Arva teams of these years included Ciaran O’Reilly, Michael Cully, Gerry P. and Vincent P. Brady, John and Niall Gormley, Mel Bouchier, John and Gerry Hamilton, Padraig, John & Conal Conneely, Cyril & Michael Sheridan, Martin Sheridan, Terry Kilkenny, Sean Kiernan, Padraig & John Smith, Niall O’Donnell, Brian Ellis, Padraig McEntee, Cathal Brady, Hugh Brady (Kilgarve), Raymond Hourican while in 1983 Vincent Brady (Gurteen) was an inspiring Captain. It was a proud moment for Phil Brady who was then Chairman of Cavan County Board when he presented the cup to Vincent Brady -possibly the first Chairman to present the cup to his own club.
For most of the 1980’s Arva played Senior Championship and at one stage had four players on the County Senior team -Mel Bouchier who was Captain in 1985/1986., Sean Kiernan, Niall 0′ Donnell and Martin Sheridan. In those years Arva could hold their own with the best teams in the County and indeed the surrounding counties but that elusive title was not to be.
In 1988 Arva met Gowna in the first round of the Senior Football Championship in Breffni Park and after a hard hours football Gowna came out on top and went on to win their first Senior Football title with ease. That year marked the beginning of the end for that great team and in the following 18 months 34 players were lost to the club through injuries, retirements and emigration. Just like the teams of the 1940’s they needed just one or two more players and anything would have been possible.
After a couple of years Arva were relegated through Intermediate to Junior & Division 3 League for the first time since 1963. They won the Division 3 league and the longest serving player at that time, Pauric Conneely, was presented with the cup by his life-long friend and County Board P.R.O. Barney Cully.
Arva won the Junior Football championship in 1993 and performed well in the Intermediate grade, getting to the Quarter finals on a number of occasions. They won the Division Three league and were promoted back up to Division Two until the end of the 1998 season when they were again relegated to Division Three for 1999.