Cleveland Comhrá: (Conversation) Trad Sessiún At The Plank Road Tavern

Cleveland Comhrá:Trad Session at Plank Road Tavern
by Bob Carney

The west coast of Ireland is a beautiful place,no matter the time of year, but a visit in the fall, after the tourist season has passed,brings rewards as well. Dress for the weather and enjoy the sites, nothing is crowded this time of year and that adds to the magical feeling of many of the places along the coast.

At the end of the da,y a quick hot shower and a trip to the local pub for a bowl of chowder and a pint sets things right with the world. And if you’re lucky,there just might be a session that evening. Some of the best music you can experience happens in some of the smaller local pubs along the coast.

Unfortunately, I can’t be in Ireland as much as I’d like, but I have found some great alternatives right here in Cleveland. Partners, Mike and Sarah Pap, Chris Pap, Kevin Pap and John David opened The Plank Road Tavern in 2010. When Mike approached Sarah about investing in the pub, she was hesitant at first, but agreed on the condition that they host an Irish music session.


Al O’Leary & Sarah Lally Pap

A reasonable request for a talented fiddle player! Kevin runs the day to day operations along with his girlfriend Megan Roddy,who is the manager. Mike, a dentist by profession, handles the books,and Sarah, a lawyer,handles that end of things. On a side note, Sarah’s father, John William Lally, is the Westside Irish American Clubs 2019 Man of the Year.

The building itself has been around a long time.I recall being there in the 70s when it was The Riviera. That age adds to the atmosphere; the wooden floor is perfect for tapping your foot along with the music. The bar is well stocked, and they definitely know how to pour a Guinness.

The menu is varied with the burgers and fried pickles highly recommended. During football season,thereis no question this is a Cleveland Brown’s fan’s place. The Plankis a cozy neighborhood pub, where the regulars know one another and many live within walking distance.

The Thursday night music sessions, however,have made it a destination. Started

John Coyne

in February 2011, every Thursday, with only a couple of exceptions, the music has been the force and the focus. Sarah told me the sessions are about carrying on a legacy and keeping the tradition of the Irish music session alive. Kevin added that it’s also a tribute to the brothers grandfather John Coyne, a fiddler who’s been gone over thirty years now.

Al O’Leary, who’s a regular participant on Thursdays, played with John in the past. John’s photograph hangs on the wall where the musicians are seated and is a great reminder of that legacy.

The music changes, depending on who comes out to play, but some are there almost every week. Michael English, who plays the flute, has been coming to the session since they started. Sarah said,“ he’s the rock of the sessions here.” The last evening I was there, Al O’Leary was there with his accordion, Alec Stott did an amazing job with the uilleann pipes. Aidan Schwind, a senior at St. Ignatius High School,  joined in on fiddle, along with Sarah and Samantha McNamara.

Al O’Leary & Sarah Lally Pap

Michael Brennan played the bouzouki, Drew Anbreatta and Micki Ansberry played the bodhran. George Hanna on guitar and Mike Pereira on banjo both from the trad Irish band,“Red Haired Girl” joined in too. The music flowed effortlessly from all of these talented musicians and was appreciated by all of us packed in that evening.

Even Mike and Sarah’s son sat in for a couple of tunes with his tin whistle. A lot can happen in an Irish session, even romance; I recall Brian Bigley telling me he met his wife Kristen at one of the sessions here. 

It is truly an amazing thing among the folks at The Plank Road Tavern,and all the other venues that host these sessions. Check the Out and About section every month and treat yourself to the experience of a true Irish session in this far west county.

Plank R0ad Tavern 16719 Detroit Rd. 216-221-5900 [email protected]

Want to get started with Irish music? Contact Samantha McNamara at The McNamara School of Irish Music



*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @Pj McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary and hounds Cian and Morrighanand terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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