The businesses, sports clubs, and community groups of the Bishopstown area have been enjoying a soft return to normality in recent weeks following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Businesses were forced to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways of doing business ahead of reopening, while sports clubs returned to the field after months of helping those most in need in the community and community groups continued to step up to the plate after a difficult year.
All 1,500 members of Bishopstown GAA Club returned to the pitch on June 7 after a soft opening saw the U18 players return two weeks prior.
PRO Diarmuid Vaughan said that it is a hive of activity since all players returned after the amalgamation of the ladies football, camogie and GAA clubs.
Throughout lockdown, the club stayed engaged with the community with its Malin to Mizen virtual run in aid of Cystic Fibrosis in memory of the club’s Kevin Driscoll who was a selector with the senior footballers last year, and its involvement with Meals on Wheels and initiative with Centra doing shopping for the vulnerable.
Mr Vaughan said that reopening has shown that it is not just the activity on the pitch that is important to people, but meeting people and chatting with people after so long.
“Sport is massive in any community and sometimes something has to be taken away from you to realise the importance of it,” he said.
He said that the club saw “a real sense of community” when it lost some of its esteemed members, including Kevin Driscoll, Mick Jones and Jim Hynes, which he said “had nothing to do with a ball being thrown in the air”.
Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club has witnessed an unprecedented demand from new members in recent weeks looking to join the club with the club signing up over 100 new members in recent weeks.
Club chairman, Joe Murray said that he was delighted to open the gates and welcome everyone back to the club.
“It is wonderful to see so many people using the club and back playing tennis.
“Over the years we have seen our members increasing gradually. All levels of tennis ability are catered for from beginner to social to competitive,” he said.
The club runs a junior program called 'On The Rise' where children of all ages and all levels are accommodated. The club also runs an adult group with players at all levels from beginners up.
Bishopstown and District Lions Club, which is celebrating its 30 year anniversary this June, had its usual activities and fundraisers suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Michael O’Brien, who has been with the club for 25 years, said that Covid impacted them in many ways but it didn’t stop the club from engaging in a life-saving project not subject to restrictions.
The club provided a number of defibrillators in the Bishopstown and Ballincollig areas after a subcommittee was formed in late 2020 with a view to selecting suitable locations for each of the defibrillator units and fundraising for them.
The group agreed with the owners of four businesses, to place the defibrillators at the Texaco garage on Carrigrohane Road, Texaco garage on Model Farm Road, Centra on Curraheen Road and the Maxol filling station in Ballincollig.
These are available for use on a 24/7 basis and the code for the devices is available by contacting the emergency services.
The cost of the units, at about €2,000 each, was funded from the club’s own funds, voluntary donations from the public, sponsorship from commercial companies and businesses, and councillors who provided funding from their Ward funds.
Vincent Bradley who runs The Rendezvous Gastro Pub on Model Farm Road said that it was great to see so many customers back on the door, both familiar friends and faces and new customers.
Mr Bradley was busy converting a car park into a courtyard ahead of reopening earlier this month which he said has got “an unbelievable reaction”.
“We’ve turned 11 car park spaces into seating for 130 people. We’re getting an unbelievable reaction and the phone is hopping on a daily basis. It’s gone beyond what I would have thought it would achieve.
“From next week on it will be a seven-day-a-week operation after we were first looking to see how it fared out. It certainly has done itself justice and more so if we could get the weather that would be great,” he said.
He said that there was “a lot done with the boundaries had” and that lockdown forced him to “think outside the box and try new things in the way that we do things and the approach to the way we run business”.
“Realistically, the Irish people couldn’t spell Al Fresco prior to the pandemic. It took a pandemic to get these things achieved,” he said.
Manager of Wilton Shopping Centre, Susanne Irwin, said that she was “delighted” to welcome customers and friends back to the shopping centre which she said has been “at the heart of the community since our opening in 1979”.
“We would have customers who visit us every day and have grown to be lifelong friends. Our centre has over 60 stores under one roof, we provide employment for more than 550 people and we provide a host of essential services such as banking, postal, pharmaceutical and food.
“We missed each and every customer who are part of the fabric of Wilton Shopping Centre and we are so pleased to say we are fully open for business again,” she said.
Owner of Homefront in Wilton Shopping Centre, Sara McGregor, said that it was “fantastic” to be reopened again and that while she ran the online shop during lockdown that it “wasn’t next nor near compared to the business that we lost”.
“There has been a buzz and people are delighted to be back to a bit of normality. I haven’t found it amazingly busy, it’s not a boom like we had after the first two lockdowns, this one is a steady pace.
“I think people had an awful lot done last year to their homes and at the moment they’re concentrating on the fine weather and being out and being able to dine out.
“I think people are trying to support each business as their stages come as well,” she said.
Speaking of the importance of shopping local, owner of Icon in Wilton Shopping Centre, Maureen Collins, said that she is “hopeful” for the future of the shop because of peoples’ willingness to appreciate and support local businesses.
She said that people are “taking a swerve from online shopping” and that many customers had said it wasn’t the same as going in and trying something on, feeling the fabric and getting a good look at an item of clothing before purchasing.
“Small independent businesses are responsible for over 50% of employment in the private sector, it’s vitally important that they are supported and the more people understand that and realise it the better. We saw it with Debenhams bailing out, the multinationals will come and they’ll go,” she said.
Recently appointed Sinn Féin councillor Eolan Ryng said that it is “brilliant to see the community moving again”.
“The simplest of things like a coffee or a chat are now events people are taking extra enjoyment from. It's very heartening to see people out and about again.
“Supporting local has always been important, but rarely more so than now. Many people have adapted overnight at great cost and risk and deserve to be supported when possible. By supporting local we all ensure our localities can thrive, and that services and outlets can remain.
“As a community we have learned a lot over the last 18 months about the things that are truly important. Supporting community development, representing people to the best of my ability, and advocating for solutions to our housing crisis would be among my priorities as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic,” he said.
Cllr Ryng, who is also head coach of the Bishopstown Minor Football Team, said that it is “impossible to do justice to how important sport is for many young people”.
“It provides them with social interactions, friendship, physical training, a sense of club and belonging and hopefully guidance and personal development,” he said.
Owner of Scoil an Spiorad Naoimh Montessori, Sineád Hennessey, said that despite the changes that had to be made in running the Montessori, that it was “amazing” to see how the children adjusted to the new ways so quickly.
She said that she was “absolutely over the moon” when she heard schools would be reopening and that the children “have been so incredibly happy since we returned”.
The Montessori usually holds a special day for the children and their families for the preschool graduation and this year saw adjustments made in order to still hold the graduation in a safe manner.
“We recorded our graduation song and took photographs to send home to the families. It was a wonderful day, and we are so glad that we were able to at least give families these photos as a keepsake. I can understand parents were so disappointed that they could not be there in person but the children still had a fantastic day,” she said.