Thursday 22 March 2018

Tennis enthusiasts are more than happy to make a racket

TENNIS WAS introduced to 'The Boat Club' in 1883, some ten years after the founders first came together to form a rowing club. It was really only an after-thought for the members in the early years. A way to relax, and a way to socialise, when not on the water.

Like any after-thought, the enthusiasm wasn't always there for tennis in the early years. Activity was intermittent and the facilities were often in need of repair. If something needed doing, well maybe it would get done in a few years' time. The name said it all: 'The Boat Club'.

Eventually a membership that carried enough weight of numbers, led by an enthusiast called Austin Channing who was once Managing Director of this newspaper, started to properly resurrect the facility and finally tennis started to find its feet in the club. However, it wasn't truly equal until the committee changed the name to 'Wexford Harbour Boat and Tennis Club' in 2004.

The combined membership in the club stands at around 500 and while no actual figure is kept for those playing tennis, those involved in sailing and those involved in both, it's estimated that the two vastly different sports boast participation in equal numbers.

Leading the racquet sport side of things is tennis club captain Bernie Morrissey. While Morrissey attests to having tried the sailing, and readily admits she wasn't keen on 'getting my bum wet' out on the water, the game of tennis is an ideal pastime for her for a number of reasons.

'The speed of it, you can go and play a game of tennis in an hour and get a good deal of exercise, more than your daily requirement,' says Morrissey. 'It's really good, it's great to be out in the fresh air, it's a challenge to improve yourself, if you play a good shot, you feel really good.

'It's good fun. You have these rivalries between players, and they keep playing and you almost count how many times each beat the other, even if it's only a friendly, then if they meet in competition they don't even want to play because it's a competition!'

While the grizzled veterans are beating and needling each other all over the court, the Juniors are just as competitive but in a different way. Club director of tennis Ashley Wynne, who also works out of Hillbrook in Enniscorthy, oversees the coaching side of things with summer camps in July and August, which is a great way for new players to get started.

The main competition for youngsters in the club is the Hores Stores Junior Open which also runs in the summer. The competition is a mixture of host club players and others that are visiting from around the country and is competitive but sporting.

The adults in the club have plenty of official competition too. The Austin Channing winter league, which is currently being played, is followed by the M.J. O'Connor business house league which is open to everyone. However, the big event of the year, like the Juniors, is the Wexford Senior tennis open. Morrissey says the place is buzzing for the competition.

'The biggest event we have in the summer is the open weekend in August,' explains Morrissey. 'We have the best players in the country coming down for the open. The courts here, it's like Wimbledon with everyone. People can come and watch if they want.'

So whether a casual drink at the club bar watching out over the harbour is your thing, or sipping a cocktail out on the balcony while taking in the best of what Irish tennis has to offer is more to your liking, Wexford Boat and Tennis Club might be just what you are after.

Gorey Guardian