Organised tennis in Sligo goes back as far as 1881 when one of the oldest clubs in the country played on grass courts at Ardaghowen in Sligo town. The origins of the present day West of Ireland Championships are directly linked to the first open tournament at this club in 1882.
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The game grew throughout the county with three clubs in Sligo town as well as those in Ballymote, Strandhill and Ballisodare. The game probably reached a peak of activity in the 1950s but dropped off in the 1960s and 1970s.
The present club was founded in 1978 at a time when there was no competitive club in the county. It grew quickly, despite having no courts of its own. In the first year the club minutes’ book record that The Committee investigated the possibility of eventually owning our own club grounds-but this had to be postponed until the club is much more established. Four years later a plan was agreed and the present facilities were quickly developed, the courts in 1984 and the clubhouse in 1985. At an early stage it was recognised that incorporating squash, badminton and table tennis would be valuable and significant facilities to incorporate in the club. This move proved to be a masterstroke, it attracted many more members as well attracting many to sports previously not experienced. Over the years virtually all junior and seniors would enjoy two or more of these sports. Occasional ‘four-sports’ team events were popular.
Like all sports clubs finance were always on the agenda. The large voluntary effort by members from day one has ensured that the club was successful on all fronts. This included time spend on committees, organising competitions, coaching, social activities and fundraising, as well as the physical maintenance and development of the club. Each of the four sports committees are directly linked in to the management committee. The club is lead by the president, who acts as club chairperson, with important support from all, particularly the honorary secretary and treasurer, and the sports captains. The professional club manager plays a key role on a day to day basis and reports to this committee. With this effort the club has climbed many hills successfully, and with minimal bumps on the way.
There is every reason to think that, with the enthusiastic and unselfish efforts of ordinary members, the racquet sports at Sligo Tennis Club will be enjoyed by many generations to come.
Sligo Tennis Club-Highlights 1978-2011
A meeting was held in the Presbyterian Hall at 9pm on Thursday 25th May 1978. Some thirty one people attended this meeting having spotted local posters and a notice in the Sligo Champion. The name Sligo Tennis Club was agreed, with Hugh Hanly elected its first chairman, Phil McGowan, Honorary Secretary and Eddie Sheehan, Honorary Treasurer. A team was entered in the Connacht senior cup (tennis). The first club championships were held at Sligo Grammar School. Club signs up 84 members during that first summer.
Over the next few years club players were to play on the courts at the Regional Technical College and Summerhill College, among others. Private courts were always welcome, especially later, when large open events, such as the West of Ireland, were held. First AGM announces a surplus of £107.25. The club enters team in the Pitman Cup (U18).
The club reaches the semi-final of the Connacht Senior Cup. In the early years the club played many friendly tennis matches with clubs in the region. These included Longford, Boyle, Ballina and Ballyshannon.
Celine McGarry wins Connacht U14 title.
First entry to National Team event at Fitzwilliam. There were two AGMs in 1982, the first held on the 17th May and the second, on the 20th October, to start a new era with a club development plan. The plan was an ambitious one and to was to include a club with facilities for squash, badminton and table tennis. The search was on for a suitable piece of land for a new club. Many meetings, by candlelight on one occasion, were held into the small hours at Des and Maura Butler’s house. The present location on the Old Bundoran Road was identified by Des and the rest is history. A number of key members were involved in the success of the development. These included John Burke, Don McAleenan, Emmet McGarry and Gabriel Browne.
The U18 team reach Connacht final. Celine McGarry wins the U16 Connacht title and plays at number 2 on Connacht U18 team. The first junior club tennis championships were held at Summerhill College. A limited company formed for the ‘County Sligo tennis Club’. In the new constitution the post of president was introduced, replacing the title club chairman.
Two pockets of land were purchased, a walled garden/orchard was the ideal size to fit in six tennis courts. The six new tennis courts were formally opened at 6pm on Friday 31st August 1984 by the Mayor of Sligo, Councillor Tommie Higgins. Over two hundred attended this important event.
Roger Smith does fund-raising marathon cycle to Dublin and back. Other fundraising activities included a fashion show and a car draw. U18 team win Pitman Cup for first time. Senior team win Connacht Cup for the first time. The club building was completed in 1985 with dressing facilities, lounge area, viewing balconies, four badminton courts, indoor tennis court, four table tennis tables and two squash courts. On the 9th November 1985 Ronnie Delaney, Chairman of Cospoir, Olympic 1500m gold medallist at Melbourne in 1956, formally opened the building to the delight of many hard working members and, in particular the committee who succeeded in bringing the development to fruition. At the opening were representatives of many organisations including Connacht’s Mr. Tennis, Donal Dempsey (President of ILTA 1973, 1977 & 1981), John Mc Guigan (Chairman, BUI), John O’Flanagan (Chairman CSRA), Les Hunt (Chairman, CBITTA), Pauline Daly (President ILTA 1984 & 1985), Molly Nicholl (President BUI,1979). Ronnie Delaney showed his tennis expertise in an indoor match with Donal Dempsey against locals Bob English and Tom Higgins. Zimbabwe team play Irish/Sligo selection on new squash courts. Ronnie Delaney officially opens clubhouse on the 9th November. First indoor tennis tournament. In 1985 a tennis team from our twin town, Crozon-Morgat (France) played in Sligo.
Club host junior Sligo open badminton championships. First ever junior squash open is also held at the club. First open table-tennis event held. A first ever club team travels abroad when a junior tennis team visit Crozon-Morgat as party of town-twinning. First club badminton championships. Kevin English beats John Kielty and Finnoula Burke beats Bernie Burke in first club squash championships. Three squash teams win Connacht titles. West of Ireland tennis championships revived after gap of twenty five years, much of this success was due to efforts of Bob English. Shay Murtagh (Castlebar TC) and Catherine Holohan (Sligo TC) win the singles titles. Martin and Catherine Holohan triumph in first married couples tennis event (26 entries). Fourteen year old Alan Cummins on Irish U16 badminton panel.
Two new squash courts opened. Neil McCarron, Patrick Quinn and Thomas Moran ranked in the top six U12 players in Ireland. They formed the core of the first ever interprovincal squash white wash for Connacht. Club host Connacht senior badminton championships for first time. McNabb brothers in table-tennis marathon. Catherine Holohan wins Connacht Open senior tennis title. In March, two additional squash courts were opened to cater for the large demand.
Club organise and host first national racquet sports seminar. All top administrators and coaches attend. Guest speakers Ray McSharry and Ronnie Delaney. All-Ireland squash club championships held in club (first time ever outside Dublin). First junior badminton interpro representatives are Alan Cummins (U18 & U16), Lenore McCarron(U16) and Trudy Higgins (U16). Joe O’Brien and Bobby Johnston win first warriors badminton event.
Club organise senior badminton international versus Scotland. Ten junior and six senior squash players represent Connacht. Iain Kielty(U19) wins clubs championships and is selected on Connacht U19 and senior squash teams. Neil McCarron and Patrick Quinn are the first, of many junior squash international when they play against Scotland in April.
Fintan Blake wins East of Ireland U12 squash title. Table Tennis team win Div 1 county title.
Seven players on veteran tennis teams in Cork. Patrick Staunton from Sydney wins the West.
Irish U16 badminton championships held at club for first time. Patrick Quinn selected for U16 Irish squash team. U12 national ranking tennis tournament held. Fiona Parker in junior World Squash Championships in Norway. Michael McHugh beat brother John for Nelson Cup, senior tennis championships. All Ireland squash titles for Keith Moran(U14), Patrick Quinn(U16) and Aisling Blake (U12).
26 hour badminton marathon in aid of GOAL. Ann Canning and Margaret Gallagher win the inaugural Queen Maeve ladies doubles badminton. Top badminton team win first Connacht League. Robbie McNabb and Ethel Mitchell are county singles table tennis champions. Badminton was at a peak in the club with over 80 adults and over 150 juniors playing regularly. The Sligo under 15 badminton team win the Connacht team championships, all were member of the tennis club. Fifteen year old, Sonya Higgins, wins senior club badminton championships. Janine Walsh wins National U16 Nestle tennis title. Senior interprovincial tennis championships hosted by club for first time.
Fifteen year old, Anna McGeever, plays at number 1 for U16 and number 3 for Irish senior squash teams. Keith Moran also on boys U16 team. Fiona Parker and Anna selected to play for Ireland in the Junior World Championships in Malaysia. Fifteen year old, Sarah Coleman wins senior club badminton championships. John Burke wins the Nelson Cup (singles club tennis championship) for a record sixth time.
Keith Hopkins selected to play on Irish U18 tennis team. U17 badminton team win Kinkead
Cup for Sligo, beating Galway 13/3 in final. Fintan Blake on Irish U16 squash team. Catherine Holohan wins tenth senior club singles tennis championship (Barton Smith Cup).
Official twinning with Irvinestown TC establishes important new links. Anna McGeever represents the club and Ireland at the World U19 squash championships in Sydney. Anna
had victories over the number one players from the USA, Brazil, Hong Kong and England. Ireland finish sixth in the tournament. Joe Currid wins club singles badminton championship for fourth time.
Sligo senior tennis team win Connacht inter-county for fourth consecutive year. Senior squash team come second in national event. New development plan for club prepared. Aisling Blake wins U16 Belgian Open in Brussels. Conor Carroll (Mount Pleasant LTC) wins the West of Ireland Championship for the eight time.
Bob English awarded national Raymond Egan Memorial Trophy for his contribution to the sport of tennis in Ireland. Aisling Blake celebrates her sixteenth birthday in Brazil while playing for the Irish U19 squash team. First two Omni courts opened for play.
Ladies squash team represent Ireland and come fifth in Europe. It was played in Vienna and the highest position for any Irish club team ever. The team was Anna McGeever, Aisling Blake, Siobhan Parker and Fiona Parker.
John Kielty plays on Connacht squash team for record 21st consecutive year and on Irish team for 15th time. Keith Moran wins senior club championships for the fifth consecutive year. First lady President, Lilian Brennan, elected. Fourteen year old Glen Norman is youngest winner of the senior club tennis championship. Clubs holds Tennis Ball at Sligo Park Hotel, celebrating the 21st Club Anniversary. All six outdoor courts are now flood-lit and four have been converted to Omni-courts, i.e. a synthetic, sand based, surface. A practice wall is also in place. In 1999 a new wooden floor, was laid in the indoor arena to improve play for badminton, a fifth court is now in use. A number of FAS schemes have provided welcome assistance and skills in the club’s growth.
Lesley O’Halloran (Donnybrook LTC) wins the West for the fifth time. The affable Michael Whelan, a sporting all-rounder, retires as manager.
Seventeen year old Glen Norman wins the West for the first time.
Sixteen year old Niamh Burke wins the West of Ireland, Connacht Open and Connacht Hardcourt senior tennis championships.
John McHugh in his 20th men’s club doubles’ championship tennis final, having won fourteen, his first in 1981. In December, many club members were involved at the launch of The History of Irish Tennis at Sligo Tennis Club, Limerick Lawn Tennis Club, Sunday’s Well Boating & Lawn Tennis Club, Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club, Belfast Boat Club and Longford Tennis Club. Commemorative stained glass mirrors were presented to each club.
Over the years the facilities continue to be upgraded, the lounge and dressing-room facilities getting particular attention.
Successful fund-raising ball and auction held at Radisson Blu Hotel. Aisling Blake is playing squash full-time. She is based in Amsterdam for the last few years and in November she reached number 22 in the official world ranking list.
Billy Burke is still playing tennis each week, he started playing 65 years ago – in 1946 – at the relatively late age of 16.