History

History of tennis in Ballina

The history of tennis in Ballina is a chequered one mainly because of the lack of a permanent home for the sport through the decades. In the 1930s tennis was played at the Scurmore Hotel near Enniscrone. An annual tournament there attracted many visitors including Ballina players. Eventually the courts fell into disrepair and subsequently some of these players were involved in forming a new club in Corcoran Terrace in the middle of Ballina. Three high quality hard courts and a well-fitted pavilion were installed and this club flourished during the 1940’s and 1950’s. The club became an important part of the sporting and social life of the town with players competing both locally and at national level. Unfortunately as the population in general become more mobile and activities became more diverse interest in tennis became more difficult to maintain. The grounds at Corcoran Terrace had to be sold to pay off a debt of £300 in the late 1950’s. Unconfirmed reports indicated that a fire destroyed the pavilion at Corcoran Terrace, a factor contributing to the club’s closure.

In the late 1960’s the local Soroptimists took on tennis as a project. They set about raising money locally and, with the co-operation of Ballina Town Council three courts were built on the park adjacent to the Sligo Road. While the courts were for public use it was possible to have a club revival. At underage level activity on the courts was particularly strong. Throughout the early 1970s the club continually won underage Connacht team championships and many fine young players emerged. The courts had a very visible location at the Sligo Road which tempted much of the population to try the game. Tennis competitions continued to be played well into the 1980’s despite the deteriorating condition of the courts.

In 1978, Vincent Frawley came to live in Ballina and proved to be a keen player, coach, motivator, and secretary. While in Strokestown in 1977 he had been the vice-president of the Connacht Branch. He served on the branch committee for many years and became its president, for the first time, in 1985. In the interim Hugh Hanley arrived from Sligo and both proved to be keen promoters of the game and still are to date.

In 1987 The Downhill Hotel presented the club with an opportunity to use three new high quality Playdeck hard courts at the back of their premises. Until the mid 1990’s the club was based at the Downhill and with the installation of floodlighting tennis was a year-round activity and extremely popular with annual senior and junior open events. The annual Salmon Festival Tournament attracted players from all over the country. However, in 1996 the Downhill changed and upgraded the profile of its leisure centre and tennis ceased to be a separate entity there.

In 2003 there was great news for Ballina Tennis, four ‘state of the art’ new flood-lit tennis courts were opened next to the Ballina Sport and Leisure Complex by Dr.Tom Moffatt with the support of the National Lottery on the 2nd of May. The current site, off Cathedral Road was obtained in 1998. In autumn of 2002 fundraising and construction began. There are changing facilities available on the complex but the club have plans to construct a clubhouse down the line. One court is always available to the public for a nominal fee. Some of the key people involved in this great development were Theresa Mc Loughlin, Joan Loftus, Hugh Hanley, Vincent Frawley and Rosaline O’ Malley.

 

The club secured a 25 year sporting lease in 2002 from the sports centre on a site behind the swimming pool on which four tennis courts could be built. The courts with a tarmac surface and floodlighting were built in 2003 at a cost of €97,000. Lotto funding was provided for €70,000.

Current club status

Currently there are between 50 and 60 adult members at any time. In addition, there are about 70 underage members. Club tournaments for both adult and underage categories are held regularly throughout the year. In addition, an inter-firm tournament is held annually which attracts many non-members. The club tennis coach provides coaching for all categories on two days a week. We are continually engaged in trying to recruit more members through open days, posters etc and in holding blitz days in local schools. In the past few years the club coach has extended the boundaries in bringing coaching to schools and communities in the Ballina area. 

Club facilities

As mentioned above the courts had a tarmac surface when they were installed in 2003. It was felt at the time that we could not afford a more expensive all-weather surface. However, the club felt that it was at a disadvantage in comparison to the courts of other well-established clubs in the province. As a result of various contributions and fundraising it was possible in 2010 to upgrade two courts to Matchplay 2 sanded carpet surface at a cost of €32,000. The impact of the upgraded courts was obvious. These courts are much safer underfoot particularly in wet weather and less demanding on joints. To secure funding to upgrade the remaining two courts then became a priority. With grant aid from Ballina Town Council the two remaining courts were upgraded to Tiger Turf Advantage synthetic grass in June 2013.

 Ballina Tennis club would like to thank Hugh Hanley and Vincent Frawley for their contributions to this article and also to Tom Higgins for information from “The History of Irish Tennis” (Volume 3).


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