Roy Keane pays a visit to Cork Penny Dinners

ireland
Former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland player, Roy Keane is from Mayfield in Cork city.
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Olivia Kelleher

A masked Roy Keane might be what nightmares are made of for clubs who have seen their players eviscerated by his criticism, but the former Ireland deputy manager was a much more kindly presence when he made a surprise visit to Penny Dinners in Cork earlier this week.

Arriving on Thursday at the Soup Kitchen, which provides hot meals to the homeless and needy, a mask sporting Keane led one volunteer to wonder if he was the subject of an elaborate hoax.

He simply would not believe that the quietly spoken masked man was the former Irish International and Manchester United player.

Caitriona Twomey, who runs the facility which gives out 2,000 meals a week, said that the Mayfield native has always been hugely kind behind the scenes without ever looking for praise or acclaim.

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"[His visit] picked us right up. He is very kindhearted. He has time for everyone.

Roy is very good to us. He always pops in to see us when he is home.

"One of our volunteers still doesn't believe it because obviously Roy was wearing a mask. It only came off for the picture.

"It was only then that the volunteer believed it. He thought we were pranking him. Roy is very good to us. He always pops in to see us when he is home.”

Roy observed social distancing onsite with Caitriona saying that they took off their masks for the very short period of time it took to take the photograph.

Staff at Penny Dinners are very Covid conscious given the vulnerability of some of the people who come to the door to pick up dinners.

Unfortunately, they have not had any in-house dining since March because of Covid, which is leaving its mark on people who enjoy the chats and conviviality which is part and parcel of the ethos of Penny Dinners.

A Covid Christmas

Caitriona and the team are working on plans for outdoor meals for Christmas day in a setting which she hopes will involve heaters and coverings. Their dream is to have a "Little Miracle on Hanover Street."

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Ms Twomey said that it is ironic that we celebrate Christmas with Jesus being born in the stable, whilst in 2020 homeless people are eating their meals outdoors because of Covid.

She says that at the moment the focus is on "rescuing Christmas day."

The charity normally feeds in the region of 200 people on Christmas day.

Caitriona says as usual the River Lee Hotel will provide meals with all the trimmings.

"We have to give people a bit of love and joy to keep them going. People need joy and hope all the time not just at Christmas. "

Caitriona says she attempts to stay positive but her heart breaks for regular service users who would like nothing else but to sit inside Penny Dinners daily for their meals.

"People have to walk around an empty city all day long and fall asleep in the freezing cold as well.

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"We have to keep positive and things rolling out because if they see us worried or fearful they become worried and fearful. We can see if people aren't doing well.

"People who have always maintained an upbeat attitude and accepted their lot that is absolutely gone.

"People often don't see the point of living. There is a lot of despair."

Penny Dinners has a particular need for new sleeping bags and pop up tents. For information on how to donate go to corkpennydinners.ie

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