Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club was officially reopened on March 4th. It has been refurbished to the tune of €1.2 million and it is the club’s sixth refurbishment.
The club dates back to 1875, when it was founded by Henry Dunlop. However, it has only been the Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club since 1880. As the club’s website makes clear: “Lansdowne players were instrumental in the Irish invasion of Wimbledon in the 1890’s.” Joshua Pim won the singles in 1893 and 1894. In addition, to this, he and Frank Stoker (Bram Stoker’s cousin) won the doubles in 1890 and 1893.
Although this dominance from Lansdowne, and indeed from Ireland, came to an end at the beginning of the 20th century, its proud tradition was not lost on its current members, one of whom, Mark Boland, extolled the club’s golden era in world tennis.
The club still holds itself to a high standard. The president of the club, Suzanne Tyrell, spoke of the “strong ladies’ team,” one of whom, Aoife O’Neill, hopes to play for the Irish Fed Cup Team (an international tournament for the women’s Tennis equivalent to the Davis Cup).
Similarly high standards existed in the men’s tennis, resulting in topping the Dublin League five times in the 1970s and 80s. Recently, the Lansdowne men’s over 45s team has won the East of Ireland tournament in the over-35s category the last five years in a row.
One notable player, Tommy Burke, who represented Ireland in the King’s Cup and Veterans’ club was “the golden boy of Lansdowne Tennis Club,” according to Neil Wilson, a veteran player. He was unbeatable, but unfortunately he died young. Pat Guiry, another veteran player, stated that “he was someone who left us all too young.”
Pressed about the reasons for the club’s success, Neil Wilson noted the location of Lansdowne, as well as the fact that this is a young person’s club as significant factors. In addition, a large number of international amateur players join the club when they arrive in Ireland.
The club itself organises many events for the local community such as the Captain’s Ball, which usually has around 200 people in attendance. They also hold many social tournaments and leagues for older players – the club have members playing into their late seventies.
The opening ceremony was very well attended by a buoyant, jubilant crowd. The friendly banter made it clear that the members were a tight-knit group and excited for its future.
By Kevin Mac Sharry