Knocknaheeny community raring to go as Covid restrictions ease

Huge efforts were made to keep community life going in Knocknaheeny during the pandemic, Sarah O’Dwyer hears, and locals are raring to get back to in-person activities as restrictions ease
Knocknaheeny community raring to go as Covid restrictions ease

Michelle Gould at the St Vincents Junior A training camp. Picture Dan Linehan

AS the summer months are almost upon us, the Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted bit-by-bit. Many places had to close their doors over the past 14 months and, in the wider Knocknaheeny area, local clubs, groups and businesses are looking at the positives and are in the process of reopening safely.

Many organisations had to change how they operated and St Mary’s Senior Citizens Centre was no different, but that didn’t mean the work could stop. In line with guidelines, staff and volunteers continued to ensure that older people in the community were looked after with meals and regular contact.

Chairperson Breda McNamara explained that Meals on Wheels continued, and the centre continued to operate at a much reduced capacity, with help from the local youth project and An Garda Síochána. She paid tribute to the many people who supported the centre through the pandemic.

“We delivered meals to the seniors. Our numbers increased because people had to stay at home. We got gifts from Cork City Council, HSE parcels, and we delivered all those to the seniors. There was great communication there. They were phoning, we were phoning back, but they were at home and they wanted to be in the centre,” Ms McNamara said.

Kim O’Shea, CE staff, (left) with Amy Davidson, CE supervisor, (centre) and Breda McNamara, chairperson, in St Mary’s Senior Citizens Centre, Knocknaheeny, Cork.	Picture: Denis Minihane
Kim O’Shea, CE staff, (left) with Amy Davidson, CE supervisor, (centre) and Breda McNamara, chairperson, in St Mary’s Senior Citizens Centre, Knocknaheeny, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane

All of the activities that used to take place had to be curtailed, but Breda is hopeful that, with the announcement of the reopening of indoor dining, they can reopen the centre to a further degree.

“We have our chef and staff in the kitchen. They’re working every day because they’re sending out the meals. So, we’re all equipped here waiting for the members to come back.

“Once indoor dining happens, then we’ll put our plan in place and we’ll get the members back hopefully,” Ms McNamara said.

With many older people now being fully vaccinated, they are already “all go” and Ms McNamara said they were so lucky that none of their members had contracted Covid during the pandemic.

“They’re in their bubbles and they’re out walking. Most of them are out in threes doing their walk, meeting up, dying to get back to the centre,” Ms McNamara said.

Another community-based organisation that had to rethink their way of delivering services during the pandemic was The Kabin Studio on Harbour View Road.

Tutor at the non-profit community space, Seán Downey, told The Echo that in some ways they were lucky that many of their workshops could be carried out online.

Alan Murray, owner, Alan Murray Fitness, Hollymount Industrial Estate, Cork, making preparations for reopening the business.	Picture Denis Minihane
Alan Murray, owner, Alan Murray Fitness, Hollymount Industrial Estate, Cork, making preparations for reopening the business. Picture Denis Minihane

“It wasn’t even that the lockdown hindered us,” he explained, “we just changed our approach. We were still able to make music. We have a tech space workshop — some of the kids do computer coding and things like that — we were still able to get all that done.”

In-person workshops and groups took place last week again at The Kabin, following the easing of restrictions, but they took place outdoors, and some people still attended the workshop via Zoom.

The Kabin also recently got a gazebo, which will assist in enabling workshops to be run outdoors. “It’s a lot of experimenting. We’re not going to get everything right the first time, but we’re trying to figure out our way. It’s the same with every other youth space around, I’d imagine,” Mr Downey said.

He said the kids “love being back in person” adding: “The young people were still attending the workshops when they were online. Coming towards the end a lot of people... were keen to get back in person.

“The workshop that we had [on Wednesday] — you could just tell that they were enjoying it so much more. We mightn’t have gotten as much work done as we have done on Zoom, but there were a lot of social conversations, catching up with each other, being able to be in that physical space, albeit two metres apart.

“That’s the most important thing for them at the moment.”

Looking towards the summer, Mr Downey said The Kabin are planning ahead and are hopeful they will get to perform some outdoor gigs.

“Obviously, everything is dependent on guidelines, but we’re trying to be hopeful.”

Mr Downey said that The Kabin also hopes to host its annual week-long summer workshop, which had to be cancelled last year due to Covid.

“We feel confident enough that we’ll be able to have that workshop this year. We have the space just right outside of The Kabin and, with the gazebo as well, there definitely is a way to make it possible.”

In her 33rd year of playing camogie, St Vincent’s goalkeeper Michelle Gould is buzzing to be back training again following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, and is also hopeful spectators will be able to return to games.

“It’s brilliant. Just to get back up [to the pitch] and have the craic and see people again, because you’d really miss it — I definitely missed it anyway,” she said.

The underage teams in St Vincent’s have also returned to training, with good numbers, but Ms Gould said that around 10% of the kids that would have trained with them previously haven’t yet returned.

“It’s early days. You don’t know if people are nervous still,” she said, but added that those that have returned are loving being back.

The Government has announced that some spectators will be allowed at games from early August.

Alan Murray, owner, Alan Murray Fitness, Hollymount Industrial Estate, Cork, making preparations for reopening the business.	Picture Denis Minihane
Alan Murray, owner, Alan Murray Fitness, Hollymount Industrial Estate, Cork, making preparations for reopening the business. Picture Denis Minihane

“Spectators make the game. The support is brilliant,” she said.

“I remember last year for the championship, when people actually could go to matches, and there were something like 70 or 80 tickets allowed, it was like an All-Ireland final to get a ticket,” Ms Gould added.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led Michelle Gould to re-evaluate the amount of time she was putting into camogie. She stepped down as club secretary at their most recent AGM.

“We’re lucky that we have brilliant people up coaching the teams as well, and we have a new secretary gone in. The committee is very strong, they’re brilliant,” she said.

Cork City Gaol on Convent Ave in Sunday’s Well reopened on May 22. Niamh Kenneally, Commercial & Marketing Director at the gaol, said that they were delighted to reopen “after serving our own sentence”.

The gaol, like all other cultural attractions, was forced to close for a number of months, and a number of staff had to be laid off. But it is now set to move into June with a six-day week opening for the summer. Opening at 10am, with the last entry at 4.30pm, the gaol just closes on Tuesdays.

Ms Kenneally told The Echo that they were delighted to be back, and received a fantastic response from people from the moment they reopened.

“People are looking for places to go. People have been caught up for so long they were just eager to get back out there. [The opening weekend] was great... we had more people than expected.”

While prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were guided tours of the gaol, people can now take self-guided tours, aided by a guide book or an audio guide, which are available in a number of languages.

There is also plenty of entertainment for children, with a quiz and interactive elements.

“If parents want to look into more of the history, the kids can gather together answers to the quiz as well. There’s something for everybody,” Ms Kenneally said.

“We’ve also, in the last yea

Cork City Gaol Commercial and Marketing Director Niamh Kenneally,	Picture: Jim Coughlan
Cork City Gaol Commercial and Marketing Director Niamh Kenneally, Picture: Jim Coughlan

r or two, opened up a walkway around the perimeter of the gaol. Again, people are looking for more outside things to do — they can walk all the way around the perimeter of the gaol and find out more information about the buildings. We also have some picnic benches as well.”

For people looking for something a bit different and unique, Cork City Gaol has also hosted a number of wedding ceremonies and, since restrictions have begun to lift, has received a number of queries regarding the service.

“We haven’t had any [weddings] in a while. Obviously, once they are within the numbers, we’d still definitely do it. We have enquiries coming in now for later in the year and for 2022,” Ms Kenneally said.

In preparation for reopening, Cork City Gaol completed the Fáilte Ireland Covid Safety Charter. There is a one way system in place, numerous hand sanitization stations throughout the building, and a thorough cleaning schedule to ensure the safety of everyone on site. Ms Kenneally added: “We haven’t had to introduce slotted times yet. We have enough capacity that people can arrive up and pay at admissions and come on in.”

Gym owner Alan Murray works in one of the sectors that will be among the last to open, but he is well prepared for the task. Gyms are due to open again on June 7, in line with government guidelines.

Alan Murray Fitness, based in Hollymount Industrial Estate, opened its doors as a PT studio in October, 2019, and since March 2020 it “has been stop start”.

Mr Murray’s gym was originally opened as a ground-floor PT studio, but it’s equipped to a commercial gym standard. He has expanded while closed during the Covid-19 pandemic to include a second level.

“We heavily invested since January and put in a second gym upstairs. The idea behind that was to create social distancing,” he explained, adding that he would have let the space remain as a room for classes had the Covid pandemic not happened.

“But for me now, from a business point of view, this is going to be way better. I can open this up to membership.

“Our business model has completely changed because of it [Covid]. We were going for PT clients only — you come in, do your two/three sessions a week — but now we’re able to branch out and offer membership... because we have a second gym now.

“We can do our PT classes downstairs. Upstairs is as equipped as downstairs, so you now have a gym to operate in,” Mr Murray said.

Alan has kept up with his clientele during Covid and has been interacting with them via Zoom. He said both he and his clients are “itching to get back” to the gym after doing Zoom classes and PTs over the last few months.

“Normally, check-ins are very positive things,” he said, “but the Zoom check-ins became like therapy.”

He said some people had really struggled with lockdown.

“Mental health took a beating. I was surprised they shut the gyms down for so long because it was people’s escape. They were lumped in with the bars.

“Everyone is looking forward to getting back — this Covid stone seems to be a thing I’m hearing a lot about. We’ll come back to lose the Covid stone,” he laughed.

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