Racquets: Dream Davis Cup clash with Britain beckons for Irish
IRELAND have received a favourable pairing for next year's Davis Cup, following yesterday's draw in Brussels.
Sean Sorensen's troops will square off against Luxembourg in a home tie on March 4-6. And the Irish will be favourites to progress to the second round of Group Two Europe-Africa Zone, their opponents having spent the last two years in Group Three.
The Grand Duchy secured promotion after wins in the round-robin event in Greece last May, over Malta, Iceland, Georgia, Andorra and Moldova, none of them heavyweights on the men's tennis scene.
Interestingly, if Ireland overcome Luxembourg, a home second round clash against Britain is very much on the cards, as the British will also be fancied to advance, having been drawn at home to Tunisia in their opening tie.
Of course, Ireland and Britain looked set to clash in the second round of this year's competition until Lithuania shocked our neighbours in the first round in Vilnius.
Despite their favourites' role, Ireland team boss Sorensen will be stressing to his players the importance of not underestimating the opposition.
In No 1 player Gilles Muller, the Grand Duchy possess a player who was placed as high as No 59 in the ATP singles world rankings back in August 2005. Muller, who is still only 27, is now on a respectable mark of 169, just 14 places behind Conor Niland.
The 6ft 4ins left-hander was the top U-18 player in the world in 2001, winning the singles title in the US Junior Open and finishing runner-up in the Wimbledon Junior Open.
Muller is also a veteran of 24 Davis Cup ties, with a singles win-loss record of 24-10.
He made his debut in the competition in Luxembourg's 2-3 defeat to Ireland in April 2000 -- the then 16-year-old won both of his singles matches at Mondorf-les-Bain against Sean Clarke and Peter Cooper, but in partnership with Johny Goudenbour lost the crucial doubles tie to Scott Barron and Owen Casey.
Altogether, Ireland and Luxembourg have locked horns on six occasions, with the latter's only victory being recorded at home in 1967, the second of the meetings between the countries.
Meanwhile, Ireland plays host the biggest tournament on the European badminton calendar this year, when 24 countries will take part in the European Seniors Championships at Dundalk FC's Oriel Park from Monday, September 27 to Saturday, October 2.