A time to celebrate friendship... we talk to six Cork women about what they mean to each others

Where would we be without our friends? Exactly, in a bad way! Emma Connolly asked some well known Cork women to share what their BFFs mean to them.. have your tissues ready!
A time to celebrate friendship... we talk to six Cork women about what they mean to each others

Friendship, how important is it to you? Picture: Stock

Gillian Keating and Lesley Giltinan.
Gillian Keating and Lesley Giltinan.

Lesley Giltinan, fitness instructor, and Gillian Keating, solicitor knew from the day they met they’d be BFFs. They have had 40 years of joy, magic and drama together and are looking forward to many more.

LESLEY: “The first time I met Gillian we were 13 years old, starting our first day in first year in Scoil Mhuire on Wellington Road, she was a blow in and I was “old school”, swanning around like I owned the place!

“Anyway, the minute I saw her I thought, “she’s cool, I’m going to be her friend” and I strolled over and stepped on her new shoes, as you do when you want to make a really good impression! The shoes were navy Kickers, which at the time were the height of fashion and some things never change!

“So many years later, and I can tell you my shoe stepping strategy was perfect and the implementation flawless, it worked and I’m super proud to say Gillian is my BFF and I just love her and our friendship.”

GILLIAN: “They say that age is never just a number because it represents so many good times, so many challenges overcome and so many mad moments you could never in your wildest dreams imagine. Our lifelong friendship captures just that sentiment; it represents almost 40 years of craziness, jaw-dropping drama, absolute joy and magic.

“It sounds odd, but I knew from the beginning we would be friends for life; we were destined to be double agents.

“I am still working on borrowing just a little more from Lesley’s sensational sense of humour and fun and perhaps she is still drawing on my diplomacy... I think I may have got the better deal.

They say their friendship “is about being doubled over crying with laughter recalling crimped hair and disastrous wardrobe malfunctions, teenage moments that seemed monumental at one time and now vivid memories that provoke incontrollable giddiness.

“Is about having a license to be brutally honest with each other when it’s important that we are. It’s about sometimes being the best person to push the other on to achieve those evolving ambitions for the future.

“Is about trading that increasing number for many more years of the very best craic.

“The real magic happens, however, in the moment you find yourself saying, doing or just thinking something that you know has been ‘borrowed’ from the other and you are so proud you could.”

Emer O'Mahony and Vivienne McCarthy
Emer O'Mahony and Vivienne McCarthy

Emer O’Mahony and Vivienne McCarthy run Lockdown PR and event production and, among many other things, are the dynamic duo who produce the Life Hustle podcast. They bonded on their tea break in the Irish Examiner canteen 20 years ago and haven’t looked back since…

EMER: “I met Vivienne 20 years ago when we were both part- time models in Cork. Viv modelled for Illusive Model Agency and I was with Profile Model Agency and we knew each other to see socially and from the fashion circuit in Cork.

“I had interviewed for a job in advertising at the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo and on the week I started work there, my lovely colleagues decided to bring me to the old canteen at the Academy Street offices to have breakfast with another new girl who had started in Credit Control. When I arrived myself and Viv burst out laughing at how small our city was as we already knew each other to see.

“We bonded over many breakfasts with our friends at work in Academy Street, planning our weekends in those carefree days and eventually, when the fashion scene in Cork was going through a down-turn, we planned charity fashion shows.

“Viv and I used plot and scheme over scones and coffee at our breaks to put on events that promoted local fashion design students, photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists to breathe life back into the industry, we so loved those days in Cork.

“If you told me then that we would become Model Agency owners ourselves and run Cork Fashion Week, but most importantly, that we would become best friends, I probably wouldn’t have been able to imagine it.

“But now, 20 years on, we have shared ups and downs in business and in life, been there for each other when it mattered most and still are. We have been each other’s bridesmaids, had epic girlie weekends abroad together, Viv even came up to the hospital a few hours after my first born arrived with a bottle of Champagne and now our children all play with each other.

“I feel very lucky and grateful to have someone who has been there by my side personally and professionally. I look forward to the next few decades ahead that are yet unwritten.”

VIVIENNE: “Emer and I met while working in the Examiner/Echo. We would get chatting over our tea break every morning. I was the shy one and she was the outgoing, very friendly one! We formed a lovely little group of friends and would often go for after work drinks on a Friday. We both modelled for different agencies over the years but we quickly discovered we were both passionate about changing the model/fashion scene in Cork and would have long chats about it over lunch.

“We started organising fashion shows for local designers and boutiques and the response was amazing. So many attended our shows and from there requests for models started to come in. So that’s how Lockdown was born! No major plan, it just happened.

“We have had some absolutely brilliant times. From Miss Cork to Cork Fashion Week to so many fantastic shows around the country with celebrities such as Gok Wan, Lorraine Keane and Brendan Courtney.

“However, outside of work we became best friends. We were each other’s bridesmaids and have been there for each other through all the ups and downs in life. Emer is a great listener with a heart of gold. She is wise beyond her years and gives the best advice. We thankfully have a lovely group of friends who actually all came together through either the Examiner or Lockdown. We are all busy moms now and don’t get to socialise as much but check in with each other every day. We often joke about growing old together in the same old folks’ home!”

Sian Horn, Elite Pilates and Bebelle and Virginia Foley, Brand Wagon and Up She Rises. Picture: Darragh Kane
Sian Horn, Elite Pilates and Bebelle and Virginia Foley, Brand Wagon and Up She Rises. Picture: Darragh Kane

Virginia Foley of Brandwagon PR and Sian Horn of Elite Pilates bonded over their inquisitiveness (who said nosiness?!) and are now each other’s biggest


VIRGINIA: “I met Sian at a Network Cork event a few years ago. From the minute she opened her mouth, I was struck with how open and positive she was about collaborating in business and shared her contact info. What followed was a meeting that blossomed into a wonderful friendship. We soon realised we were similar in our ambitions but more so in our values. But above all of that we really had a similar sense of humour. Over the last few years, I suppose without seeing it at the time, we helped each other out and almost mentored each other to move forward, while having the best time. It really is a case of when business meets pleasure. We also figured out that our skills are quite complimentary so we found ourselves being brought in on projects together and it seemed effortless because each knew the other’s strengths.

“The thing I admire most about Sian is how consistent she is with her support and positivity. She awoke in me a sense of how important it is to really be yourself. Her story has not been an easy one but her resilience is absolutely admirable. We now work together quite regularly and we really buzz off each other, which is great fun..”

SIAN: “When I first met Virginia she asked lots of questions. Someone who is as inquisitive (nosey!) as I am, immediately struck a chord with me. I remember asking her what she did — and straight away I realised she was a dynamic businesswoman with the same excitement in her bones as I do about small business, loyalty, progression and community.

“We kept bumping into each other and very quickly I found myself always gravitating towards her at any meeting or events. There are not many women in business that have the same energy, humour and fearless personality traits that I do. So when you find one you know, you have to hold onto them. We started a friendship and what really began was a wonderful support system for each other. I realised quickly that all women should have this. Unbeknownst to us at the time when we met, we had a huge synergy between our dream goals and business moving forward. When I first went to her with the idea of my business, Bebelle, she was my instant cheerleader and it was essential that she was the first person to feature on my podcast.

“When she shared her ideas about her work with Up She Rises, I was her cheerleader too. And that’s exactly how things should work. Being each other’s cheerleaders in life is something we should all do for each other to make us realise that this is how we succeed.”

Where would we be without our friends? Exactly, in a bad way! EMMA CONNOLLY asked some well known Cork women to state what their BFF means to them — have your tissues at the ready...

Our friendship represents almost 40 years of craziness, jaw-dropping drama, absolute joy and magic.

Being each other’s cheerleaders in life is something we should all do for each other to make us realise that this is how we succeed

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