A masked Roy Keane may be what nightmares are made of for clubs who have seen their players upset by his criticism, but the former Ireland deputy manager was much kinder when he paid a surprise visit to Penny Dinners in Cork this week.
When Keane arrived at the Soup Kitchen on Thursday, serving hot meals to the homeless and needy, Keane asked a volunteer if he was the subject of an elaborate hoax.
He just wouldn’t believe the soft-spoken masked man was the former Irish International and Manchester United player.
Caitriona Twomey, who runs the facility that dispenses 2,000 meals a week, said the Mayfield resident has always been immensely nice behind the scenes without ever seeking praise or acclaim.
“One of our volunteers still doesn’t believe it, because Roy was clearly wearing a mask. It only came off for the photo, ‘she added.
Only then did the volunteer believe it. He thought we were kidding him. Roy is very good to us. He always comes by to see us when he gets home. ‘
Roy observed social distancing on the spot, with Caitriona saying they took off their masks for the very short time it took to get the picture.
The Penny Dinners staff are very Covid-aware given the vulnerability of some of the people who come to the door to pick up dinner.
Sadly, they haven’t eaten in the house since March because of Covid, which makes its mark on people who enjoy the conversation and socializing, which is an essential part of Penny Dinners’ ethos.
Caitriona and the team are working on outdoor meal plans for Christmas Day in an environment that she hopes will include stoves and coverings. Their dream is to have a ‘Little Miracle on Hanover Street’.
Ms Twomey said it is ironic that we celebrate Christmas with the birth of Jesus in the stable, while in 2020 homeless people eat their meals outside because of Covid.
She says the focus is currently on “saving Christmas day”.
The charity normally feeds in the region of 200 people on Christmas Day.
Caitriona says the River Lee Hotel will provide full-on meals as usual.
“We have to give people a little love and joy to keep them alive,” she said.
Caitriona says she tries to stay positive, but breaks her heart for regular service users who want nothing more than to sit with Penny Dinners every day for their meals.
“People have to walk through an empty city all day long and fall asleep in the freezing cold.
“We have to stay positive and keep rolling things out because when they (service users) see us worried or anxious, they get anxious and scared. We can see if people are not doing well.
“People who have always maintained a cheerful attitude and accepted their fate that has absolutely disappeared.
“People often don’t see the point in life. There is a lot of despair.”
Penny Dinners is especially in need of new sleeping bags and pop-up tents. See Cork Penny Dinners for information on how to donate