Shillelagh gives older generation more clout


A Cork-based community group has turned to the shillelagh in a bid to tackle social isolation and improve fitness levels among older men.

Members of the Shandon Shillelagh Social Club practise a form of non-combative martial arts using the iconic blackthorn stick.

Instructor Martin Forrest teaches a programme which combines elements of Tai Chi and Pilates and involves the use of the shillelagh for self-defence.

“It’s not about fighting, it’s about self-defence, personal safety, mobility and wellness,” Mr Forrest said.

“It gives the men confidence to know they can protect themselves. Above all it’s fun, it’s a good laugh. It’s creating a space where people can talk together.”

The club, the only one of its kind in the country, came into being as part of a programme of activities organised for a local men’s group set up to tackle social isolation among men in the community.

They meet weekly at Eason’s Hill Community Centre in Cork city where they train and talk. Already the club has performed demonstrations in the north Cork town of Charleville and in Dundalk, Co Louth.

Next year they will travel to London to take part in a St Patrick’s Day event hosted by the Irish Cultural Centre and plan to perform at an event in Limerick next summer as part of the Gathering 2013.

“It’s great for the men, both for their physical and mental well-being,” said community health worker Martin Aherne, who founded the group.