“Kilmallock Macra is on the way up,” according to chairperson Elaine Houlihan, but the journey to the top definitely isn’t smooth sailing.
Macra na Feirme Club of the Year will be announced tonight at the annual conference/rally at the Radisson Blue Hotel and Spa in Cork and Kilmallock is amongst the 15 hopefuls.
Kilmallock has one of the oldest Macra clubs in the country having been set up 75 years ago, but the tradition hasn’t always helped it to stay as strong as it is now.
“I signed up to Macra six years ago and it was going good at the time but I was actually doing the Leaving Cert and then decided to go to college in the Netherlands,” Elaine Houlihan explains.
“When I moved back, I felt I had lost touch so I decided to get involved with as many things as possible to get back into the community and then I heard that Kilmallock Macra was closing and I just didn’t have the heart to let it close.”
And a little bit of heart is what has connected nearly 90 young people in the locality.
“Most pf our parents were in Kilmallock Macra. I just couldn’t see it fall apart. So, I decided to ring up the head office of Macra to sort things out. There were only eight of us involved at the time and the rest of them decided to put me as chairperson!” Elaine laughs.
“The next thing we did was send out a text saying the club would close down if we can’t get the turnout at our next meeting. And that turned out to be amazing – people came out of the woodwork!”
Macra is a rural youth organisation that caters for 17-35 year olds and its biggest aim is to be a social outlet.
“We do things like public speaking, sports and drama. Our end goal is to be a social outlet because there isn’t much else happening in rural areas like in Limerick,” Elaine explains.
There are, however, bigger concerns for the club than awards. Elaine spoke to the Limerick Voice about the dark cloud that covers the community in Kilmallock.
“We have been raising money for Limerick Suicide Watch because unfortunately it has hit our club. We are doing it all in memory of a past member.
“In areas like Kilmallock that have been struck badly, a lot of our members have been affected as they would have been friends with people who have passed.
“I don’t want any member of the club to feel like they cannot talk. That’s why I attend every meeting so someone can always come to me. The social aspect helps people a lot.
“We chose Limerick Suicide Watch to raise money for because of the amazing work they do. We are also hoping to hold workshops on mental health soon, and as a lot of our members are lads, we just want to break the stigma and show them that it is okay to talk and it is okay not to be okay.
Elaine is looking forward to Saturday night and says it is “exceptional for them to be at that stage”, having turned the club around from nearly closing, to thriving in just a year.
“From the start, I didn’t want it to be a typical Macra club associated with just farmers – it is for everyone and there are so many opportunities that come from it,” Elaine says.
“We’re a group of people you would never ever put together in your life. We’re all complete polar opposites. A lady once told us we are the oddest group of people she had ever seen, but still get on so well!
“Tonight is a celebration of what we have achieved and what we stand for.
“The pride is unbelievable. I am still yet to write the speech for the event though!”
The winner of Macra na Feirme Club of the Year will be announced at the ceremony at 8pm tonight.