Getting the lowdown on Lavey
Over the course of the last 33 years PJ Lee has kept Anglo-Celt readers abreast of the latest happenings in Lavey.
Across those three-plus decades PJ saw many changes in the paper. It edged up the week from its Friday publication date to hit the shelves on Wednesdays. The Celt’s offices moved from a fire damaged Church Street to the haunted Station House, and latterly Kilmore Business Park on the Dublin Road. It shrunk from an epic broadsheet to a digestible compact. PJ also went from writing his news items in pen and delivering by hand, to typing at home and emailing it in.
While it’s been all the change in the Celt, PJ’s news has been the very definition of consistency. Everything from the sterling work of Lavey Strand Development Association in enhancing the area, to the erstwhile ‘Ring Fort Annual’, through to Bingo nights, and family fun days, he’s relayed the gentle happenings which collectively describe a rural community’s shared life. Then there’s the more notable events such as Amanda Dunne donning the Ulster Rose sash in 1998, or when in 1990 the Jimmy Magee All Stars played a select team, led by the former Lavey and Cavan footballer Seamus Donohoe at New Inns.
Each week PJ’s succinct, detailed, engaging news items were a joy to open for a sub-editor. A cursory frisk for typos (there never were any), and the dozen or so Lavey paras swiftly joined the scores of other towns, villages and parishes of the densely populated Local News section.
Before he took up the correspondent’s role, PJ had regular contact with the Celt through his role as PRO for Cavan Athletic Board. He regarded the Celt’s Lavey coverage as “fairly skimpy”, and saw an opportunity to promote the happenings of his area.
“I got talking to Johnny [O’Hanlon, former editor] and he said ‘Fine, let’s give it a go’, and here we are 33 years later.”
PJ was an accomplished runner, initially with Laragh, before he swapped singlets to Lavey Athletic Club upon its formation in 1984.
In December 1980 he achieved the remarkable hat-trick of winning the Cross Country Cavan Novice, Junior and U19 in a three week period. He also came third in Cavan Senior Cross Country in 1981, a feat he repeated the following year, and then claimed second a decade on in 1992, before taking third place again in 2000 – 19 years between first and last medal.
PJ was also part of the Lavey Athletic Club senior men’s team which won every event, cross country, road league and road championships for four years in succession 1988 to 1991.
His notes regularly charted the achievements of the athletics club, which later amalgamated with Ballyjamesduff Athletic Club to form Innyvale, and also the footballers of Lavey GFC.
“The GAA and athletics were going strong in Lavey at the time, and maybe I felt the community wasn’t being as well served as it could. I just felt that additional attention to what’s going on in the parish would be helpful – it would benefit the community.”
His connection with the Celt coincided with his involvement in football. Over the 33 years he’s trained numerous Lavey teams, and continues to train the U17s. He’s trained the seniors for “umpteen years too”.
“And then left them and came back to them, and left them and came back to them and whatever,” says PJ, who also currently trains Meath team St Brigid from Ballinacree.
A personal highlight came when he managed Lavey to lift the Junior Championship in 2003. They also won Intermediate in 2009, and have secured their Senior status ever since.
Involvement in the football team put PJ in a delicate position, particularly when he fulfilled the role of manager.
“If the team win something, you have to be a little bit distant from it if you are directly involved. You can’t obviously say ‘Well done to me, wasn’t I great!’
However he was brimming with pride when he wrote of the achievements of clubmates - Darren Monahan and Gerard Smith - in winning an Ulster Minor medals in 2011. PJ was working part of the managerial backroom team as trainer.
“That is the only Cavan team that has won Ulster since 1974 – and there still hasn’t been an Ulster medal since then. I was writing about two Lavey players winning an Ulster medal. That was possibly the proudest little bit of news that I was ever able to write. Now, obviously I didn’t mention myself,” he hastens to add.
PJ had a good handle on all things sports in the parish, but he was very grateful to the contributors who greatly enhanced the coverage of such things as the Senior Social Club, school events in Killyconnan and Aughadreena. An occasional contributor through all that time was Sister Mary Courtney who helps orphans in Zambia and would host events to raise money for this vital aid work. PJ’s particularly grateful to Anna Sexton who contributed countless heritage and cultural items appearing, while Paddy Nelson, who lives in Castleknock was also a valued contributor.
Asked if he enjoyed his time as Lavey correspondent, without hesitation he replies: “Absolutely. It brought great contact with people. 100% I enjoyed it.”
However there was the rare occasion when something wasn’t covered.
“They’d get a bit mad with you, and you have to explain, ‘Well I didn’t actually know about it – I don’t know everything, sometimes I have to be told things,’” he says with a laugh. “You put it in the next week and they’d be okay.”
While each week the Lavey news was seldom more than a column, taken its totality, PJ’s essentially penned the annals of modern Lavey.
“You are charting nearly everything of note that has happened in the parish for quite a considerable length of time, dealing with an awful lot of people, so yeah I enjoyed it big time.”