Former Carrigaline and Cork underage star brings her expertise to new role

Former Carrigaline and Cork underage star brings her expertise to new role
Former Carrigaline player Jacqui O'Keeffe in action in 2003. Picture: Gavin Browne

LIFE after London is a big change, but one in which Jacqui O’Keeffe is relishing here back in Cork.

The chartered physio is currently working in the Arena Clinic, specialising in women’s health. 

Although she was sad to leave London having spent six years working there, while her husband, current Cork City star Alan Bennett played professional football, she is delighted to be back amongst family and friends in her home town.

“When we decided to move back to Cork, I was worried about what I would spend my time doing as I worked a lot in the UK and travel to and from work took up a big portion of my time, but I have slowed down a little and really love the pace of life here now, I guess I'm old,” laughs O’Keeffe.

“I do miss the career opportunities in the UK, there is less choice in Cork of course. I miss being able to go into the city centre and go to a show or to a nice restaurant, just the variety of options we had really. However, Cork is great, it has everything you need, the restaurants are fantastic and the sea is close by, there is no comparison really when you have family and friends close by which is lovely.” 

The 34-year-old was a well-known name in Carrigaline and Cork as a youngster growing up she was super talented in various sports. She represented her country at U17 level playing soccer, while also playing for her county at Minor level with camogie. 

Sport was always a huge part of her life and it was always evident that she would go down that line in her career also.

“I used to play a lot of sport, camogie, soccer, basketball, hockey when I was younger. I was successful at underage levels in that I played for Ireland U17 in soccer and cork minor camogie. I played soccer in UL and we had lots of success at the intervarsity. 

"Most of my best memories are linked to sport, the social aspect of it is invaluable really! Nowadays I love cycling with my husband, running, pilates and resistance work in the gym and it is great also to have sport as part of my career.

“I'm a chartered physiotherapist and I currently work in the Arena Clinic in the Mardyke Arena UCC. This is a private practice which is open to anyone (not just members), we have fantastic facilities such as a hydrotherapy pool and a reformer Pilates studio, both of which I use in my practice. I have been here for over two years now and I treat every musculoskeletal issue but I specialise in women’s health, especially pre and post-natal care.

Agata Helka and Jacqui O'Keeffe in the Mardyke Arena, in 2018. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Agata Helka and Jacqui O'Keeffe in the Mardyke Arena, in 2018. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“During Covid, we continued supporting our clients for free with phone calls and emails, we gave advice and home exercise programs. We are back in clinic now and we have made lots of changes to ensure our clients, members and staff are safe. We give our clients at least 45 minutes of our time and have not increased the cost of our appointments which is great. We really value our patients and the feedback has been nothing but positive.

“I studied sport and exercise science in the University of Limerick before deciding to become a physiotherapist. I completed my MSc in physiotherapy in King's College London in 2010 and went on to work in the NHS and in a busy private practice in London. 

"I lived near Richmond with my husband and was very happy working in the Royal Free Hospital for six years. We moved home in 2016 and I am very happy to be back in Cork and near family again, but I really value my experience in the NHS and have fond memories of life in London.

“My aims are to stay healthy and to maintain a balance between work and life. I like staying fit, travelling, swimming in the ocean and spending time with family so apart from travelling too far those are my main goals. My career goals are to rebuild the services that we provide in the Mardyke Arena Clinic such as women's health, reformer pilates and aqua natal, these are just the ones I am involved in, we have lots of specialist physio's in the Clinic as well as personal trainers and an excellent lifestyle coach. 

"Each individual brings with them something valuable, between us we are a competent team that can help a lot of people. I am proud to be a part of that.

“Since returning to Cork, I began working with Anthony Coole Physio in Dennehy's gym, I really enjoyed my time with Anthony, he's a really good person and a talented physio. I worked with Elite Pilates and learned a lot from my colleagues and the business owner there, I have fond memories of that time and I now use reformer pilates almost every day with my patients at the Mardyke. 

"I care for my brother Ciaran one day a week. This isn't a job but it is an important part of my life, he has an intellectual disability and he's great fun, I'm very dedicated to his wellbeing and adore spending time with him.

“Regarding my job I am passionate about the services we provide. We hold aqua natal classes for expecting mothers, both physio-led and general reformer pilates courses." 

Their clients love these classes and they are suitable for any age, body type, injury and so on.

"The reformers are risen from the floor so no need to worry about getting down and up! And I see pre- and post-natal clients for pelvic health issues, post-natal MOT and return to exercise post-baby." 

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