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Little consolation in victories as Lithuanian visit proves a letdown

OF course, it is easy to be wise after the event, but before Ireland's Davis Cup showdown with Lithuania last weekend, the omens were not universally positive.

In theory Ireland was the stronger of the teams, assuming both Conor Niland and Louk Sorensen were at their best.

As it happened, a chronically injured Sorensen had to pull out of the team, while Niland has clearly been struggling since his great win at the Israel Open in May.

Sorensen was replaced by James McGee, who put in a brave performance against 20-year-old Ricardas Berankis in the opening singles. The young Dubliner was up a set and a service break and battled hard for every point in a three-hour marathon. He eventually lost 7-6 4-6 4-6 3-6.

Niland then faced 18-year-old Laurynas Grigelis, the rapidly improving player who had given his country victory over Great Britain in the opening round last March. From the start, Niland was off form, losing his serve twice in the opening set. Increasingly frustrated, he hit three double faults in the opening game of the third set before going down 6-2 6-3 6-1.

Next day came the doubles with James Cluskey and Barry King losing to Berankis and Grigelis in straight sets.

For the final two singles matches, Lithuania opted to "blood" their very young second string players. Niland beat 15-year-old Lukas Mugevicius 6-0, 6-2 while McGee had a straight sets win over 18-year-old Dovydas Sakinis. It took the bare look off the final score, but the fact remains that this was a deeply disappointing display by the home side.

On a positive note, Ireland remain in Euro Africa Group II for next year.

Qualifying rounds for the Green Property Irish Open Men's Championships at Fitzwilliam start on Saturday, with Daniel Glancy, Tristan Farren-Mahon, Lazare Kukhalashvili and James Cluskey all entered. Through to next Monday's first round of the main draw are James McGee, Barry King and Colin O'Brien.

WHAT'S ON

Senior -- 17-18 July Qualifying rounds Green Property Irish Open Men's Championships, Fitzwilliam LTC, Dunlin.

19-25 July Green Property Irish Open Men's Championships, Fitzwilliam LTC, Dunlin.

10-17 July Bective Senior Championships Bective LTC, Donnybrook, Dublin. Championhips of County Cork Rushbrooke LTCC. Ballycastle Senior Championships Ballycastle LTC.

12-18 July Longford Senior Open, Longford LTC.

18-24 July Castleknock Senior Open Castleknock LTC, Dublin.

Junior -- 10-17 July South Leinster Junior Championships, Greystones TC, Co Wicklow. Meath Junior Open, Stackallen LTC 041 9824279.

11--17 July Bishopstown Junior Championships Bishopstown LTC; Nenagh Junior Championships; Tramore Junior Championships Tramore LTC 051 381426.

12-17 July Longford Junior Champs. Carlow Junior Open.

18-24 July Irish Close Championships, Rushbrooke, Cork.

17-23 July Donnybrook ITF Junior Championships Donnybrook LTC, Dublin.

17-26 July Kilkenny Junior Championships.

19-24 July U14 Europe Championships David Lloyd Riverview, Clonskeagh, Dublin; Connacht Junior Open, Galway LTC.


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