Business

Tyrone GAA legend Peter Canavan on his plans for former Kelly’s Inn

Tyrone GAA legend speaks about his new challenge as a bar and restaurant owner in his home parish

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Tyrone and Errigal Ciaran GAA legend Peter Canavan, who has opened Canavan's in the former Kelly's Inn venue in Garvaghey. PICTURES: COLM LENAGHAN

In the world of Irish sport, Peter Canavan’s name travels far and wide.

As of last week, the Tyrone GAA legend’s name is firmly attached to the front of the former Kelly’s Inn premises on the A5 roadside in his home parish of Errigal Ciaran.



A teacher by profession, the Allstar footballer turned TV pundit has gone into the hospitality trade, partnering with Derry men Stephen Doherty and Martin Strawbridge to take over one of Tyrone’s best known businesses.

Their plans to revamp the Garvaghey venue are well under way with a new expanded front bar completed and the launch of a new food menu.

In the coming months, they plan to develop the venue’s function space and upgrade the on-site accommodation to attract larger weddings and events.

Punters can also expect plenty of live music and events.

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's Bar L-R: Peter Canavan, Stephen Doherty and Martin Strawbridge putting some final touches to the new expanded front bar at Canavan's. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

While he still hasn’t given up the day job at Holy Trinity College in Cookstown, Peter is quick to dispel the notion that his involvement in Canavan’s ends with his name.

“I wouldn’t be putting my name on it if I wasn’t going to invest a bit of time in it.”

He said the three business partners each have an equal share.

“I have been asked in the past to get involved with this and that, but I decided to stay away from the bar game.

“But Kelly’s has been very good to me and to the people in Errigal here, and with Stevie, I trust his expertise in the hospitality game, so I would be pretty confident that it should do well.

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's Memorabilia including Peter Canavan's personal collection of jerseys on display in his new front bar. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

“It’s another challenge, it’s something different that I’m ready to embrace.

“I’ve been teaching in Holy Trinity for 31 years and hopefully we’re not far off getting our new school.

“But this is much closer to home.”

Peter is currently spearheading the Holy Trinity Foundation and its fundraising drive to support the development of a new £35 million college in Cookstown, due to open in June 2025.

“Hopefully once we get to that stage, then maybe I’d like to be in a position to spend more time here,” he added.

The opportunity to take over the business came last month, when the Kelly family sold the bar and restaurant that had been in the family since 1937.

It was acquired by JMM retail, a company headed by Armagh woman Naomi Curry that already owns the nearby Centra on the A5.

She turned to the Inn Bar Group, which started out six years ago, when Stephen Doherty and his father-in-law Martin Strawbridge took over the Village Inn bar and restaurant in Killyclogher.

The Derry men have steadily expanded their hospitality portfolio around Omagh, taking on well-known comedy venue Daly’s and a series of premises in Old Market Place.

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's The new 'Canavan's' signage over the former Kelly's Inn venue in Garvaghey, Co Tyrone. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

“Stevie had his eyes on Kelly’s for a number of years,” said Peter.

“It’s a business he believes has a lot of potential. Coming from the area, I’m well aware of the strength of the business.

“And I’m well aware of what the Kelly family have done for the local community in terms of employment in this area and their support of Errigal Ciaran.”

The family haven’t completely severed ties. Annemarie Kelly has agreed to stay on as general manager of Canavan’s.

“Thankfully Anne-Marie is still involved with us here and Patsy [Kelly] has been an ever presence.

“I’m delighted we have their support moving forward.”

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's Part of the 'Errigal corner' in Canavan's new front bar. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

Canavan’s doesn’t just have the GAA legend’s name on the building.

The new front bar could easily double for a GAA museum, with Peter’s All-Ireland winning jerseys on the walls and the ceiling covered in his personal collection of jerseys accumulated during his playing career.

“There are a lot of stories in those jerseys,” he said.

There are also corners dedicated to his club Errigal Ciaran and to ladies GAA.

Stephen Doherty said travelling GAA teams are already an important part of the business.

A large interactive screen, not unlike the display used by Peter during his Sky Sports punditry days, has been installed in one of the event spaces to assist pre-match analysis.

The room is already being put to good use by passing GAA teams, including inter-county squads visiting Healy Park.

“We had six different teams in the past week,” said Stephen.

“They come in before games, have a bite to eat and have their meeting to talk tactics.”

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's 'I wouldn’t be putting my name on it if I wasn’t going to invest a bit of time in it.' Peter Canavan on his new hospitality venture. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

The hospitality boss said the revamp will be an ongoing process over the coming months.

“The main focus for now is the bar and restaurant. Everything else will come over time.”

He also revealed there are plans to operate their own on-site taxi service.

“You come here, we’ll get you home,” he said.

While there is no mistaking on arrival that the venue is under new ownership, Peter added: “I think the locals will still call it Kelly’s and I’m ok with that.”

But there’s no doubt for passing GAA fans in particular, the Canavan name is a unique draw.

“Maybe it is,” he smiled. “Or maybe it’s a reason to drive on!”

Tyrone Star Peter Canavan who has taken over Canavan’s Bar , formerly Kelly’s with business partners Martin Strawbridge and Stephen Doherty at Garvaghy in Co Tyrone.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Canavan's Some of the GAA memorabilia on display in Canavan's. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN