Nenagh Snooker & Social Club rooms at New Institute on Friar Street. PHOTO: ODHRAN DUCIE

Don’t forget about us!

Amid all the excitement of some outdoor sports resuming this week, there are sports that are looking on longingly for the day they can return. For indoor sports, their return is still some way off as activities in a confined space are seen as the driving force behind the spread of Covid-19. SHANE BROPHY chats with three clubs in Nenagh who are playing the waiting game.

NENAGH SNOOKER & SOCIAL CLUB

Much like virtually every other sport, snooker has been shut down for much of the past year. Bar a three-month spell between late June and early October when Level 3 restrictions were in place, snooker halls have virtually remained unused.

One of those is the rebranded Nenagh Snooker & Social Club who used Lockdown 1 to undergo a renovation of its club rooms in the New Institute building on Friar Street.

It did manage to reopen for play on June 29th last from where they reduced the number of tables in use at any one time adhered to all the Covid regulations, according to club Secretary Tony Seymour.

“We were Covid ready and had everything in place,” he said.

“We allowed three tables to be played to ensure social distancing. I took the bookings and people were allowed hourly or two hourly slots.

“People did comply but there are always people that just don’t care but you still have to police it. Now people generally kept their distance, it is easy enough to keep your distance at a snooker table as nobody is every two metres close to you playing a game.

“We have a procedure in place where the players that comes in, they are responsible for wiping the table and balls down before play with disinfectant cloths, they go to their Covid station and then do what they are to do there, and then when they are finished, they have to do the same thing again.”

The renovations to the club rooms which included a new heating and aeration system and cost over €100,000 but the club still has around €22,000 to pay off and have been inhibited from doing so as snooker has been shut down for a second time since Level 5 was re-introduced last October, meaning little membership fees have been paid, while traditional fundraising sources such as flag days and table quizzes are also not allowed.

“We are anxious to open and start again, particularly the youth academy.

“Everything is ready to go to start again, but we still don’t know anything at the moment, so snooker is closed until restrictions lift more,” Seymour added.

NENAGH WARRIORS BASKETBALL CLUB

Basketball clubs are free to recommence outdoor non-contact activity from Monday last, however, Nenagh Warriors Basketball Club have opted to press pause on their return, even prior to the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in the area.

Primarily an indoor sport, Nenagh Warriors will adopt the same approach that they took last summer by training outdoors when they do return, however options are limited to just two facilities according to Head Coach Patsy Farrell.

“There is the council owned court opposite St Joseph’s Park, but it is not up to standard as the tarmac is damaged. The only other one available at the moment is in Nenagh College and we are hopeful of getting to use it as they did use the indoor facility in the school prior to lockdown,” he said.

Indeed, Nenagh College, along with St Mary’s Secondary School were hugely supportive of the club providing their gyms for training when they did resume for brief period in the autumn of 2020, alongside that of New Institute Hall.

“Nenagh College was our home but when school restarted the gym was needed as a classroom because of social distancing,” Patsy added.

“In the meantime, the facilities at St Mary’s Secondary School were made available to us, as well as the New Institute Hall for the smaller ones.

“When we had the Convent (St Mary’s), all the doors and windows were open, and it was brilliant and the circulation of air going through it was fantastic. I felt safe in it as you felt the draft coming through.”

Nenagh Warriors did manage to get back on the court from July to September last year when restrictions were eased, however, they have played no competitive basketball in over thirteen months with sessions extremely restricted,

“We had a program going and were working week by week,” Pasty added.

“We did all the usual things, temperature testing, hand sanitizer. Everybody had to bring their own ball and when we had a short game at the end, we used one ball which was sanitized before use and everyone sanitized their hands as well.

“It was a big team effort from the coaches, including Louise Shinners, Niall Farrell and Sebastian Siwek.”

Prior to the Level 5 lockdown in October, numbers in the club had grown to their greatest ever levels. The club had no Covid difficulties and everyone was enjoying as much normality as was possible at the time. As such, it was a great shame for all involved, when the 2020-21 season was eventually cancelled. However, they do look forward to getting all of our players back on the court in the next few weeks and hopefully to an uninterrupted 2021-22 season.

“We are interested in bringing them back on a phased basis,” Patsy said.

“Speaking to some of the parents recently they are looking forward to when it comes back because they know the kids need an activity to keep them going because that part of their life has been missing.

“We are going to try but we are surveying the thing at the moment and hopefully the news will be better in the coming weeks.

“The regional officer for basketball in the Mid-West feels there could an outdoor season for the clubs if the vaccine and case rates improve.”

ST PAUL’S BOXING CLUB

One of the sports where social distancing is impossible is boxing where no sparring, let alone fights, have taken place since March of last year.

Indeed, amateur boxing clubs were only open for three weeks in the autumn of 2020 by the time level 5 restrictions were re-introduced in October, including St Paul’s in Nenagh where Head Coach Stephen Hanley is conscious that they are likely to be the last ones to resume again should everything go to plan with the vaccine rollout.

“What can we do but with this pandemic the safety of people comes first,” Stephen said.

“There’s no use cribbing and crying and the next thing we open up and one of our young members gets it and bring it home and passes it on to someone else.”

Every element of boxing is high risk of transmitting the virus, from gyms being in confined indoor spaces to sparring sessions between fighters and/or coaches which are as close contact as you can get. Even using the punching bag or skipping ropes can lead to boxers sweating making it a high-risk environment.

“Whenever we can open safely is the most important thing for us,” Stephen Hanley added.

“It has been strange but at the same time we are in the middle of a pandemic, what can you do. Nobody wanted this, we are all dealing with it. It’s not just boxing, it’s the shops downtown and potentially people losing their jobs which is more important as well and ensuring everyone is safe.

“At the moment, does anyone want to take the risk?”

St Paul’s Boxing Club is located just off Kenyon Street carpark in Nenagh; however, it is a rented facility but their landlord has been extremely understanding as to their situation with the venue lying idle for 55 out of the last 58 weeks and will continue to be for the foreseeable future as it is likely to be one of the final sports to be allowed return.

Like all sports, Boxing is one where you can lose your edge quickly if not constantly training in the gym and despite the other outdoor sporting options open to all children in Nenagh at the moment, Stephen Hanley is optimistic most of their young members will return when they are given the go ahead to do so.

“Kids come and go in every sport. What can you do, its people’s lives you are playing with this virus. No one wants to be in the position of something serious happening from having the club open,” he said.

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