Can you imagine where there are now scrapped cars and much sought after car parts in Car Spares of Cross Street that down to the bank of the river sheltered by a lovely line of beech trees there were two beautiful lawn tennis courts. Here the people of the town played tennis in their long white flannel trousers and flowing skirts on Sunday afternoons and in the summer evenings and had ‘strawberries and cream.’ This was in the long hot summer evenings of the late 1930s. The courts were owned by Jimmy Payne and were ‘caretaken’ like a new born baby by Oliver O’Grady (brother of Christy O’Grady) and Leslie Condron of Condron’s Hotel now the Dunclarin Arms.
Here is a list of some of the tennis players: Jimmy Payne, Oliver O’Grady, Maura Bree, Nellie Carter, Mollie Bradley, John O’Dowd, Tackie Howley, Jack Geraghty, Josie Curran, Maidie Fitzsimons, Christy Delaney, John O’Rourke, Bob Holmes, Nora Byrne, Mary Mannion, Kitty Fahy, Lily Howley, Carmel Jordan, Sheila Hassey, John Joe O’Grady, Leslie Condron, Pierce Jordan, Charlie Redmond, Jane Kilkelly, Annie Carroll, Mary Rabbitt and Paddy Hassey.
In the early forties the club moved to Stack’s field behind Nevin’s House in the New Line. This had been a cricket ground for the British forces stationed in Dunsandle at the time. The three lawn tennis courts had a ‘cinder’ base and would have been the best surface in all Ireland. The pavilion was transported by Malachy Kearney from the Barracks in Renmore as there had been the tragedy of a man from Derrydonnell trapped and burned in it during the trouble times.
Tom Atkinson was the man who not only loved tennis but also the club. He was caretaker, arranged the matches and was one of the backbones of the club. Matches both in tennis and romance were won and lost here.
Players came from Galway, Tuam, and Ballinasloe to play in tournaments. Clem McGuinness and Scan Dempsey both played on the Connaught team.
There were some great dances in the pavilion. Memories of these lazy hazy summer days are still vivid but have yet to be recorded. Dances were held in the pavilion, Murphy’s hall and Craughwell to the music of Stephen Garvey and Brose Walsh. Functions were enjoyed till the break of dawn in Duffy’s hotel. Life was wonderful!
Here too are just some of the tennis members:
Rosaleen Fitzpatrick, Seán Dempsey, Christy O’Grady, Tom Atkinson, Frank Dempsey, Joan and Patsy Murphy, Clem McGuinness, Tim O’Regan, Babs O’Regan, Gerry Moore-O’Farrell, Cecila Corbett, Noel O’Grady, Tom Jordan, Tom Cleary, Seán Coen, Mattie McNamara, Ena O’Grady, Joy McNamara, Eddie Somers, Rita Glynn, Carmel Whelan, Ann Kelly, Maisie Curran, Myra Coen, Pat Kennedy, Willie Higgins, Carmel Coffey, Francis Sweeney, Michael Quinn, Seán Glynn, Michael Kennedy, Seán Atkinson, Paschal Fahy, Mary Atkinson and Joe Walsh.
In the 1960s two tennis courts were built at the top left hand corner of Raheen Parish grounds. Séamus Cullinane and Colm Hilliard from the Community Council initiated the restart of the club. It took off with a mighty swing and in the 1980s two new courts were built and in 1985 two others were finished and all four floodlit. Seamus Cullinane and Colm Fitzgerald from the Community Council worked hard to get Lottery money which was matched funded by the Tennis club. Fashion shows, cake sales and supper dances were organised and teams were playing at both county and club level tournaments. Friendly matches were played every second week and the club was in full swing with over a hundred members. Clem McGuinness’s cup for ladies and Tom Atkinson’s cup for men were feverishly played for.
This is a list of some of the members in the 1980-1990:
Tom Cheevers, Francis Kennedy, Paddy and Padraic Ryan, Fr. Charlie O’Malley, Colm Fitzgerald, Gerry Atkinson, Clem McGuinness, Tom Carr, Kevin Healy, Arthur and Claire Brown, Carmel Burke, Brendan Burke, Nicola and Maria Burke (both on the Connaught team), Stephanie O’Regan, Joy McNamara, Hilary Walsh, Scan Monaghan, Carmel Farragher, Helen Tully, Muriel Nolan, Dave Ward, Maeve Rooney, Hilary Walsh, Michael Dunleavy, Christy O’Grady, Ann Cullinane, local families – Lawless, Holian, Brody, Nevin, McGovern, Rynne, Brennan, Hession, Quinn, Coffey, Crimmin, Brady and hundreds more too numerous to mention.
Since 1990 the tennis club has gone downhill and now in the summer of 1995 there is not even a tennis committee. When there is a need in a community someone, somehow helps to fill that need.
It appears there is no need for a tennis club in Athenry any more? Or is there?
Written by Stephanie O'Regan
Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published August 1995
A Ramble around Athenry in the 40s: Chapel Lane
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