There was an air of the Crucible Theatre inside the Age Concern building in Derry this week when men, over the age 60, took part in an annual snooker competition.
The competition is called ‘The Age Concern Snooker Pairs’ finals and was won by Shantallow club members, Seamus Fleming and Don Meenan.
Although winning the competition was on everyone’s agenda it didn’t stop many of the men explaining what a venue, exclusive to older people over the age of 60 means to them.
Paul Parry is 61 years-old and lives on his own in the Waterside. Paul, who is a retired lorry driver and is originally from Wales, said that the snooker room at Age Concern on the Chapel Road provides many older men with a place to go and socialise.
“I’d be lost without this place,” said Paul.
“It’s a great facility and yes, everyone is always trying to win the competitions but the most important thing is that the snooker room at Age Concern is a place for men like myself to come, play a few frames with my friends and have a bit of craic.”
Seamus Fleming is 70 years-old and from Shantallow. Seamus, who along with his partner Don Meenan, went on to win the competition, described the Age Concern snooker facility as “brilliant” and said that he is always guaranteed a few laughs when he goes there.
“This place is just brilliant. The snooker table is one of the best I have every played on and there are few characters here who will always get the craic going.
“It’s nice knowing that there’s a place for men like myself to come and enjoy ourselves.”
Competition organiser and former Age Concern Derry Pensioner of the Year, Don O’Doherty, said that since the competition’s inception seven years its popularity has gone from strength to strength.
“I have been playing snooker for 62 years - I started when I was two years-old,” joked 80 year-old Don.
“Seriously though, the facility here at Age Concern allows us to host our own competitions - it’s just excellent.
Don echoed the points made by many of the other men in the sense that the snooker facility provided many men over the age 60 with a place to come and enjoy themselves.
“There are many older men living by themselves within the Derry City Council area,” said Don.
“I know for a fact that one of the older men who is a regular user of the snooker room, would be lost without it. He said to me that if he didn’t have the snooker facility at Age Concern, he’d sit at home by himself every night and watch television.”
Age Concern, Derry Secretary, Roger O’Doherty, explained that for many of the men, the main attraction is playing snooker but with that comes socialising and meeting up with friends.
“Not all of the men who come here knew one another but through such competitions as this one, they make new friends.
“There’s a real social aspect to the snooker room too. A lot of the women who come here are able to take part in their favourite activities so it was important that the men had a place to go to.”
Age Concern Development Officer, Emer Doherty, stressed that the snooker room is open to anyone over the age of 60 and encouraged anyone interested in trying out the facility to get in contact.
“You don’t have to be a member of Age Concern to use the snooker table - it’s open to anyone over the age of 60 and who lives within the Derry City Council area.
“We have had great feedback from anyone who has ever come here and you can be guaranteed plenty of laughs.”
Meanwhile, Emer reiterated her call for nominations for this year’s Pensioner of the Year Awards.
“We believe that this award is a meaningful way to show to older people that the contributions that many of them have made and are making to their communities and their involvement in so many worth-while projects in the City are recognised and appreciated.”
To be nominated a person must be over the age of 60 and living in the Derry City Council area. Nominations can be made by organisations, groups or individuals. All nominations must be made on a form which is available from Malvern House, Chapel Road (Telephone: 71 347478). The completed form must be received on or before Friday, November 9, 2012.