COVID 19 and Fine Weather Combine
The fine weather and the easing of the Covid 19 lock down have combined to ensure the past week was once again a very busy and active place for our members. Singles matches are still the order of the day and glad to report the Phase 1 Guidelines are being observed by our members. It is gratifying to see quite a number of new members joining our club and enjoying some tennis action. There was also a spring/summer Covid 19 distancing voluntary clean-up of the courts last Tuesday and Saturday, thanks to the seventeen volunteers who were involved. The four courts look much better.
Membership forms for existing new members can be downloaded from our web site athlonetennisclub.com with bank details included. Arrangement about providing fobs will follow for new members soon afterwards.
During Phase 1 of the current restrictions club nights are suspended. Members are free to book the courts and play singles matches instead. A lot of members are anticipating a return to club nights where there will be organised competitive action.
History of Athlone Tennis Club Continued
On the 8th September 1992 an historic agreement was signed between the Tennis Club and the GAA by both Chairpersons, Luke Walsh and John Cummins, respectively and witnessed by Rory Byrne. Clause 1 of the document states “Cumann Luthchleas Gael Áth Luain hereby grant to Athlone Tennis Club the use of four tennis courts….” Clause 4 state “Athlone Tennis Club shall pay a contribution of £4 per member to Cumann Luthchleas Gael, Áth Luain…”
The Tennis Club was now independent but the lack of a long term lease with Athlone GAA was always a worry for the members. Consequently the club was constantly on the lookout for a permanent home. During the nineties negotiations took place with a number of interested parties.
A 31st July 1990 letter from Mary O’ Rourke TD, thanks Eugene Dooley and Luke Walsh for their recent visit. They were seeking her support on the possibility of County Council land being made available for the Tennis Club. Mary promised her support stating, “I am taking this matter up with the County Secretary and you can be assured of my personal interest in the matter.”
Westmeath County Secretary, Ciaran Mc Grath, in a letter to Luke Walsh dated 25th July 1991, states, “I wish to refer to our meeting of the 23rd inst. in the Town Hall, Athlone, in relation to the above and enclose, as promised, copy of map showing land in the ownership of Westmeath County Council, (shaded) to the north of the Relief Road.” This is the first reference to land at the Regional Sports Centre and almost thirty years later the same site is very much being discussed. I shall return to the history of this site later.
First I will explore and write about the other five options and return to discuss the history of our involvement with The Regional Sports Centre and of course our involvement with Athlone GAA.
The Land at Ballykerran
Luke Walsh referred to this land as being an option for the Tennis Club to purchase. There is no further reference in the minutes to this site. The land in question however refers to a disused quarry off The Bullet Road in Ballykerran.
This site was discussed at an executive Meeting on Thursday 20th July 1995. The minutes state “It was generally felt that the location was unsuitable for our club.” Perhaps with tongue in cheek the minutes continue “however we would be available to the elected committee should they require our assistance on tennis matters in the future.” Distance from the town was the big disadvantage.
Athlone Bowling and Leisure Centre
A sentence contained in the minutes of an executive meeting dated Thursday July 20th 1995 simply says, “Tom Diskin would be approached again about his proposals for tennis facilities.” There is no record of another meeting but Dave Costello is quoted in the minutes of the 1998 AGM, “just prior to the AGM, he had been approached by Tom Fitzgerald of Athlone Bowling and Leisure Centre with the proposal to build three tennis courts at a cost of £100,000. We would then rent them at a cost of £12,000 per year. There would be a charge £5 per hour for singles and £8 per hour for doubles.” Only one person spoke in favour of further discussion with Mr. Fitzgerald.
Department of Defence Land at Cornamaddy
A letter addressed to Luke Walsh from Donal Hynes & Son, Auctioneers, Valuers & Property Consultans, dated 1st June 1993, refers “to your interest in the lands at Cornamagh, we have been informed by the Department of Defence that the balance of the lands, 4.87 acres, is now being offered for sale for the consideration of £61,000.” Further references to the sale of the proposed land are made in club minutes for July 1994 and January 1995. No bid was made by the club for the land and nothing else of consequence is contained in the minutes.
The Rugby Club Land
“The planned meeting with the executive committee of Athlone Rugby Club took place on the 14th April” according to the minutes of a tennis club committee meeting dated 27-4-1992. The minutes also report that a sub committee consisting of Luke Walsh and Eugene Dooley, Athlone Tennis Club representatives and Paul Connellen and Michael Cleary, Athlone Rugby Club representatives, “be formed to look into the requirements of Athlone Tennis Club.”
A draft discussion document, a proposed agreement between the two clubs, lists twenty four clauses for debate and decision. Of the twenty four clause 1, 3 and 4 are the most interesting.
1. Athlone Rugby Club will provide a site with full planning permission for the development of 10 number of tennis courts including planning permission, initially, for the lighting of four of these courts.
3. The Tennis Club will undertake entirely at their own expense the development and construction and lighting of the courts concerned to include sitting and spectator facilities around the initial Show Courts.
4. Athlone Rugby Club will provide showering/dressing room facilities within the existing club house premises.
The July 21st 1998 minutes state that Dave Costello and Martin Curran met with Michael Cleary, President of the Rugby Club, the result being a further meeting was planned. There is no record of a further meeting but the minutes of September 2nd 1998 executive meeting decision proved to be decisive. “The meeting opened with a discussion on club development. The Rugby Club and the GAA options were discussed in detail. Following same, Mary Jo O’ Farrell proposed that we resurface and floodlight courts 3 and 4. This was seconded by Joe Price. The proposal was carried by a vote of ten in favour with two abstentions.”
Dave Costello was delegated to set up a meeting with the GAA to finalise the agreement. Thus ended the discussions with the five groups listed above. Next week The Regional Sports Centre option will be explored, it will be the final option discussed and debated by the Tennis Club’s executive committee.