Cavan CYMS is the oldest surviving active organisation in Cavan town. Founded in 1886, it was originally known as the Catholic Club. Among those actively involved were Andy McEntee (the Sport's Editor of the Anglo Celt for a record 68 years), Joe Smith (the Returning Officer for County Cavan), Tom McGuiness (the Town Clerk at the time of the building of the Town Hall in 1910), and the Taggart family in Church Street (who operated a coach building service). The first Chaplain of the Catholic Club was Father Francis Teevan Adm, a native of Killeshandra. Later on, they were joined in 1922 by Stan Mullery (who was proprietor of a bicycle shop in Town Hall Street), Joe O'Rourke (who was a bookie in the Market Square and later worked in the Courthouse), Tommy Young (proprietor of the 'Dublin Bar' in Ashe Street), and Vincent Buchanan (the brother of the legendary Father Willie Buchanan, Musical Director in the Old Cathedral). It is interesting to note that Joe Smith and Andy McEntee were among the four people who reorganised the GAA in Cavan and Ulster following a series of meetings in the old Temperance Hall in April 1903. The other two were Paddy O Reilly, Athbara and John F. O'Hanlon, Managing Director of the Anglo Celt, and all four were active members of the Catholic Club.
Joining the C.Y.M.S.
With the advent of the CYMS movement in 1936, the Club decided to amalgamate as Cavan CYMS, Saint Felim’s Branch. John M. Breen was the first Chairman, and Billy Browne was the first Secretary; both were on the teaching staff of Saint Patrick's College. Father Joe Sheridan CC was the first Chaplain and the premises were located in the old Temperance Hall adjacent to the Presbytery' beside the Cathedral. The Club were closely associated with the Holy Family Confraternity and acted as Stewards at all the major ceremonies in the Old, and, later, New Cavan Cathedrals.
Gerry Lovett, Principal of the nearby Technical School was first to appreciate the benefit of the Club to his pupils and encouraged them to join. He was Chairman for twelve years with Secretaries of the calibre of Charlie Leddy, Eddie McEneaney, Eugene Monahan, Larry Clarke and his own son Anselem, who is Honary President of the Club from 2012. While providing facilities such as billiards and snooker and the very popular card games, the Club ran the famous Whist Drives every Sunday during the Winter months, as a source of fundraising. These were the great social occasions of the 1950s and the attendance was excellent every Sunday night in the Temperance Hall.
The Hut Era
Due to expansion of the Presbytery and the development of Saint Augustine's Hall the Club were forced to vacate their premises in 1961 and relocate to 'The Hut', on Farnham Street, which was at that time occupied by the British ex-Servicemen's Association. As the old soldiers died out, the club became dilapidated and ran into disrepair. Lord Farnham offered to sell the premises to Cavan CYMS for £5,500 in 1975. and this was eagerly seized by an enthusiastic committee led by Oliver Malone (UDC Chairman), and including Arthur Downey (ESB), who supervised the rewiring, and Joe Cullivan, who assisted in the re-plumbing of the premises. Hughie Smith of the Courthouse, Paddy O'Reilly, Benny and Andrew Cafferty, Frank Fitzpatrick, Kieran Cullivan, Aidan Crossan, Ned Sharkey, Jim Fay, Michael and Mickey Breslin were among the foremost promoters of the fundraising drive that cleared the debt on the 'Hut' premises in record time, and enabled the CYMS to bring the premises to a high standard, ensuring better accommodation facilities and more comfortable surroundings.
Down the years many great players in both snooker and billiards graced the tables of Cavan CYMS. Tom McCusker was an outstanding exponent in both billiards and snooker, and was runner up in the Irish Senior Billiards Championships of 1952 (March 1st 1952). Tom McCuskerwas beaten by M.J. Nolan, Maynooth, in the final of the Irish Billiards Championship, at the Burroughs and Watts Hall in Dublin. McCusker got off to a great start and outclassed his nervous opponent in the first session before missing a cannon when leading by 74-11. McCusker was eventually beaten by Nolan, who contested the Final, by 1,000 to 806. McCusker had breaks of 36,55,40,52,73, and 36, but Nolan, after a shaky start, was a deserving winner on this occasion.
He really came into his own with the emergence of snooker as the popular game in the 1980s, and gave some wonderful world class exhibitions in the old Hut, which at that stage was affectionately referred to as 'The Crucible'. Joe Higgins was a stylist who used the cue like a concert violinist uses a bow. He was poetry in motion accumulating huge billiard breaks with consummate ease. Each evening in both the Presbytery and Hut premises the Solo card school would meet and remain in combative session for a couple of hours with bids and counter bids that were legendary in their concept and execution. 'The Killer' Mick Fox, Tommy Connolly 'the Chemist', who inherited the title for his ability to stop an opponent in full stride, Joe O'Rourke, the two Caffertys Benny and Andy, Frank Fitzpatrick, H.L. Smith, Joe Cullivan senior, Matt McCutcheon, Matty Corcoran, and Father Jimmy O'Reilly Adm were all at one time or another members of this elite card school, which, like the Master's in golf, was strictly by invitation only. Later, in the 'Hut', card schools were a regular occurrence starting late at night and continuing until the early hours. Mickey Breslin, Hughie Cosgrove, Joe Simonetti, Hughie Maguire, J.P. Malone, and Peter Sheridan were some of the outstanding players of that era, and you had to have your wits about you to survive some of the robust games of 110 and Poker.
The position of Caretaker has always been pivotal to the success of Cavan CYMS. Men of the calibre of Mickey Strong, Johnny Burns, Joe Doherty, and Joey Murray graced the Temperance Hall years. While Ned Kinsella, Jimmy McCormack, Michael 'Smiler' Donohoe, Frank Fitzpatrick, Alex Reilly, Danny McCarthy, Jack Dunne, and Brendan Breslin ensured that what we lacked in comfort was made up for in the utmost efficiency, hospitality, and welcome during our long sojourn in the Hut. In latter times we have been fortunate to have Owen McCaul, Paddy Brady, Larry McGuigan, Enda Corr, and our present Supervisor Eugene Smith regulating the nightly routine in the Club's new purpose built premises in Farnham Street.
The Modern Era
With the advent of colour television, snooker became the game of choice, and membership increased to new heights until 1997, when the Club decided to build a purpose built premises housing two shopping units on the ground floor and the Clubrooms, with three snooker tables and computer room, on the second floor. The design was by Bryan O'Reilly, who supervised a job that entailed bridging the river at one point in the foundations. The total cost of building and fitting out the premises was £175,000, which the club paid off by means of generous contributions from the local business sector, fundraisers like golf classics and draws, grants from the Lottery, and rental income from the retail shops. The committee in 1997 was led by Tommy McKiernan (Chairman), and consisted of Paddy O'Reilly (Treasurer), Michael Breslin (Secretary), Kieran Cullivan, Micheal Smyth, Sean Coyle, Richard Cassidy, Sean Walsh, and Father John Phair (Chaplain).
Today we have the finest CYMS premises in the countr,y and are the envy of many others who would aspire to such facilities. Membership is open to all young men and boys in the Parish from 10 years upwards, and all activities are carried out in a supervised, non-alcoholic, drug and smoke free environment, where the Catholic ethos so valued by our forefathers still exists in the manner in which the members interact, and respect one another.
Tuesday, the 16th of October, 2018 will be a red letter day for Cavan CYMS, as we celebrate the launch of our book 'The History of Cavan CYMS 1936-2018' in the Johnston Central Library, which will coincide with our week-long photographic exhibition at the same venue. Our celebrations reach a climax on the following weekend, when we host for the first time the annual meeting of the Catholic Men and Women Society of Ireland. Friends from all over Ireland are travelling to join the present members in celebrating a glorious chapter in the social, religious, and cultural life of Cavan town. No other surviving organisation can boast of such a long unbroken distinguished service to the young, and not so young, men in the community.