Doyle at the helm
Aughrim's Yvonne leads the Irish team into action
Ireland's women's tennis team recently departed for the upcoming annual Fed Cup, which will take place in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, with former player and Aughrim based woman Yvonne Doyle at the helm as captain.
Having just missed out on promotion from their Europe/Africa division last year, Doyle and the four Irish players, Ruth Copas, Jenny Timotin, Sophia Derivan and Jane Fennelly, will be hoping they can go the extra step this year.
It will be a tough task however as Ireland must first come out on top of a four-team group, where matches are played in a round robin format and playing three ties, two singles and one doubles match against each nation, then win a semi-final against another group winner which would see them promoted as both finalists are guaranteed to go up.
However, in Yvonne, the Irish team have a captain with a wealth of experience to guide them there. Having come to prominence in her teen years, winning national junior events with her native Castleknock Tennis club, she went on to have a long a distinguished career. Yvonne reached a world high singles world ranking of 238 and 201 in doubles and competed in the Fed Cup for 11 years before finally calling it a day in 2008. To add to this this will be her fifth year as captain so she is well versed in Fed Cup proceedings.
Yvonne gave us her thoughts on the upcoming tournament and explained her role with the team as captain.
"I'm not going to get hung up on outcomes but promotion is always going to be the general goal. There are some very good teams with some very good players and there will be 15 other teams battling it out with us for two promotion spots so it certainly won't be easy."
"We're going over with a young team and Sophia and Ruth will be making their debuts so it can be very exciting but nerve racking for them at the same time. I suppose one of my main responsibilities would be trying to keep them in a good place during matches. I'll be courtside with them so can offer them advise or reassurance but different players will have different needs and personalities so it's very important to understand the girls and what they may require in certain situations."
"My other responsibilities would be organising practice, picking the team and advising and helping the girls in training in collaboration with their individual coaches. It's great when it's something your passionate about and have been involved in for a long time so I feel I have something I can give back to the girls and to Irish women's tennis."
Yvonne is a busy woman and aside from the rigorous responsibility of being Ireland team captain both she and her husband Dave Sheehan run 'Big Hit Tennis Club' in Arklow. Here they offer a coaching programme for local schools and adults alike. It is something both she and her husband are passionate about and want to grow in the future.
"Playing numbers in tennis in Ireland have fallen, especially for girls, and I think some people may look on it as an elitist sport but we're trying to show that this isn't the case. It would be great to see more people playing tennis, especially in rural areas or local towns, as it really is a brilliant sport in so many ways."
Big Hit Tennis Club will be running an open day in Arklow Tennis club on Sunday, July 2, so it would be a great chance for anyone interested in the game to bring either themselves or their kids, too.
Yvonne will hope by then that her Irish team will have conquered the Fed Cup but either way she is a woman obviously engrossed in tennis and in love with the game.