Men’s Sheds pilot a massive success

TWO Donegal-based Men’s Sheds joined forces for a successful seven week pilot programme titled ‘Shed’s for Life’.

Shed’s for Life is an initiative by the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, which was created by men for men, said Lorraine Conneely, a Health

Promotion Officer with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association.


The Kilmacrennan and Dunfanaghy Men’s Sheds were the first groups in the west of Ireland region to be involved in the programme that is soon to be rolled out nationally.

The programme takes a holistic approach as it takes into account the men’s physical, social and mental wellbeing.

It was run in collaboration with Donegal Local Development Company and Donegal Sports Partnership.

The programme is kicked off with a ‘mini MOT’ organised by the Irish Heart Foundation.

“They get a full health check, their bloods, their blood pressure, and then they have a chat with a nurse on site about any questions or concerns they have,” said Lorraine.

The following six weeks of the programme include a 45 minute exercise session followed by a hands-on cooking session.

Toward the end of the programme the participants attend a mental health workshop organised by the group.


The pilot programme has been a massive success in Donegal and the men involved were eager to come back every week.

“Anybody that’s attended so far wants to come back,” said Raymond McBride from the Kilmacrennan Men’s Shed.

He explained that there was almost full participation every week, apart from the odd medical problem and with the genre of men involved “that’s a given”, he explained.

Raymond has been a massive advocate for the programme since the launch in Donegal.

“I honestly couldn’t praise it enough,” he added.

Playing a game of scooch in Kilmacrennan Community Hall.

The group met once a week in the Kilmacrennan community centre. Each evening started with a warm up, to get the men moving, this was mentored by Donegal GAA star Karen Guthrie.

This was followed by a game of ‘scooch’ which is an adaption of shuffleboard using pushers and weighted discs.

Following on from a bit of healthy competition was a session of healthy cooking.

For six weeks nutritionist Emma Louise Kerr from the DLDC joined the men and facilitated a HSE-led healthy food made easy course.

Each week the men cooked a variety of healthy and simple recipes, these included lentil soup, stir fry, fish cakes and smoothies.

“It’s all about getting them to make better food choices,” said Emma Louise.

She highly praised the programme, and explained how she developed a soft-spot for all the men involved.

“They’ve been amazing; they’ve been really welcoming, engaging, and fully on board with everything we’ve cooked.

“I’m really going to miss them,” she added.

On her final night the group “went out with a bang” and cooked two delicious recipes, a fresh bruschetta and a comforting apple crumble.

Members of the Kilmacrennan and Dunfanaghy Men’s Sheds enjoying their homemade crumble.

Those who weren’t accustomed with the Italian antipasto didn’t dawdle as they familiarised themselves with the balsamic and garlic, and carefully prepared the tomatoes.

Everyone got involved – some chopped, some washed, some delegated and others joked and messed – each of these roles were as important as the next.

“It’s been great craic and it has also shown us some very good health tips,” said Raymond.

Raymond said his wife teases him for his “preaching” about healthy food choices.

He isn’t the only one who has been busy preaching, one man walking by chirped in and offered some new-found wisdom: “Don’t buy brown bread, buy wholemeal bread, because you know what brown bread is, white bread dyed brown,” he said. Emma Louise smiled back at him, beaming with pride.

Another also bantered with Emma Louise, he wanted to make sure she practised what she preached; he quizzed her to make sure the crumble wouldn’t be made using sugar.

Emma Louise laughed and assured him that they were using honey – a healthier alternative.

Just before the men got busy chopping, they all sat down together for a well-deserved cup of tea.

Raymond explained how this very relaxed tea break is often the most important part of the evening, as the men have an opportunity to chat and catch up.

Health Promotion Officer Lorraine Conneely agreed.

“The most important element of the programme is that it is really informal for the lads,” she said.

“Usually when men have conversations surrounding their mental health it tends to be in a clinical setting, with their GP.

“Whereas this is a different tone, they’re in their own shed environment which makes it very comfortable to chat amongst each other or if they have any questions,” she added.

Some of those who took part in the Sheds for Life initiative aimed at improving physical, social and mental wellbeing.

The pilot programme was concluded with a motivating talk from Bill Vaughan from Mental Health Ireland.

The group are also looking forward to their health check which was postponed and is set to take place in the coming weeks.

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association hopes to roll the initiative out in sheds across the west in the New Year, and Raymond strongly encourages anyone who has the opportunity to get involved to do so.


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