FINGAL pair James Cluskey and Colin O'Brien will bid to keep the flag flying high in Irish tennis when they represent their country in a home Davis Cup tie against Estonia next week.
Victory against Estonia at the David Lloyd Riverview centre in Clonskeagh would secure their place in Group 2 of the European standings for another year, while defeat would consign them to a relegation play-off against Bulgaria or Finland, a scenario that Ireland are desperate to avoid. However, there is plenty of optimism in the Irish camp ahead of the tie according to Swords native Cluskey, who has spent the last two weeks in Germany, winning one Futures tournament and reaching the final in the other. Speaking from France on Sunday, he said: 'The Estonia team is officially announced on Tuesday and their number one player, who is ranked about 80 in the world and played Paris and Wimbledon, has told me he is injured, and if he doesn't play we'll be favourites. 'But I think it's always important in Davis Cup tennis to be playing in front of family and friends and other people you know, somewhere where you recognise the faces in the crowd, and even if he plays I think we have a good chance. 'It's different because of the whole team aspect and the honour of representing your country, and a lot of the Irish players travel together and are good friends, so it's good to have the opportunity to play together as a team. 'When I was a kid playing in Swords it was my dream to play Davis Cup and to accomplish that feels great.' It's been a busy few weeks for Cluskey, the highlight being his 6-0 6-1 victory with Germany's Alexander Satschko over two other Germans in the Doubles Final at Schweiberdingen the weekend before last. This week he's playing in another International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit tournament in France, and just before Christmas he enjoyed three weeks in the big Indian city of Mumbai, opting out of the 12-day intensive training camp in Spain's La Manga which some of the Irish players embarked on. 'I have a friend in India who invited me over to practise with the number 10 and 11 players in the world in doubles,' he explained. 'This week I'm playing in France, and when I finish I'll head home, the Irish team move into the Burlington and practice for the Davis Cup starts next Monday. 'I'm excited because we didn't have a home tie in the Davis Cup last year and I didn't play in the Irish Open because I was out in Kazakhstan.' Cluskey (26) also welcomed the return of Malahide's Colin O'Brien after a spell out of the game. 'Colin has been injured for a couple of years, but he won the Irish Indoor tournament recently, did the training at La Manga and he's in the UK this week hoping to play in a Futures tournament to get a few more matches under his belt. 'He's kept himself in good shape and I've played quite a lot of Doubles with him over the years, so it's good to have him back.' The Irish team is completed by James McGhee and Sam Barry and tickets for the Davis Cup tie from February 1st-3rd are available at www.tennisireland.ie.