Past Members Return
Many past members, who were very in the club in the nineties, have re-joined once again, where old friendships are being renewed. Quite a few new children and adults have also joined our club. Of course two reasons, the exceptional dry weather and tennis being one of the few sports where the public may participate, have helped in this phenomenon. With all schoosl closed for the summer and the unlikely return to a lot of summer camps, we can expect more inquiries from many families. Information and club details can be found at athlonetennisclub.com.
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. Current members are reminded that their fobs will be deactivated Monday 15th if they have not paid their yearly subscription.
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, hopefully in early July.
This year is the Golden Anniversary of our club and these series of articles are being written to celebrate that fact. This week’s article is about the tennis club’s move to Páirc Chiaráin in 1970 and how it saw off the other options.
Athlone GAA Tennis Club
An article in the Westmeath Independent, dated Saturday May 2nd 1970, which has recently been published in that same paper. It is safe to say that no present member of the tennis club knew of its existence. The article reads “Great news for all tennis enthusiasts this week was the formation of a new Tennis Club in Athlone. At a very well attended meeting in the Royal Hotel, the following officers were elected.
President: Rev Fr Harte, Chairman: Mr E. Costello, Vice Chairman: Mr P Rohan, Secretary: Miss Ida Smyth, Assistant Secretary: Mrs Madigan, Treasurer Mr E. Kelly, Assistant Secretary: Miss Lorna Burke.
Committee: Miss S Kelly, Mrs Mc Carty, Mrs Keary, Mr Butler, Mr T Finn, Mr Kieran Connolly, Mr E Stanley, Miss Mary Sweeney.
Work is now in progress on the first two courts in Páirc Chiaráin and should be completed by the end of May. This is the first step in the development of a new social centre Athlone. Need we say this is a most welcome amenity for the town as it has been without a tennis club for a number of years. The GAA are to be congratulated on their enterprise. So now all that is needed is more members.”
There are no minute books or correspondence on file, with the present tennis committee, so it is very difficult to write the history of the first twenty years of the club. Perhaps some members, who were active during the seventies and eighties, may have some records or written articles on activity, during those early years. The present committee, would welcome any such historical information and they would also like to hear from former members, who were involved also. Please make contact through, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Athlone Tennis Club
The earliest correspondence, we have of activity within Athlone Tennis Club, is a letter dated 10th April 1991. This letter from Luke Walsh, Tennis Chairperson, to John Cummins, Chairperson Athlone GAA, states “At a public meeting held on the 12th December 1991 a committee was formed, with a view to setting up, an independent tennis club in Athlone.” This was formally ratified by the signing of an agreement, dated 8th September 1992, by the Chairpersons previously mentioned. 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.
Of the ten clauses contained in the document Clauses 1, and 4 are the most interesting “Cumann Luthchleas Gael Áth Luain hereby grant to Athlone Tennis Club the use of four tennis courts….” and “Athlone Tennis Club shall pay a contribution of £4 per member to Cumann Luthchleas Gael, Áth Luain…” respectively.
The tennis club, even though independent had not exclusive control over who played on the courts. A sentence from the 1993 AGM minutes is revealing “It was also suggested that a notice be placed by the GAA specifying who had rights on the courts.” In the same minutes, Thomas Murphy, “proposed that the club spend money on courts 3 and 4, within three years having full control of all courts.”
In her annual report to the 1994 AGM, Secretary Mary O’ Neill, reports “The decision of the EGM was that the executive be given the go ahead to resurface and floodlight court No. 3.” A quotation from SLS to floodlight the said court was £4,266. It seems that the club applied to Westmeath County Council for the said planning permission only to be informed that they should have applied to Athlone Urban District Council. Minutes from a committee meeting dated November 1st 1994 read “Luke Walsh stressed the need to move fast on the planning permission.” Cathy Walsh, according to the same minutes “stressed the need for priority on the courts before any money was spent, and a meeting with the GAA, in relation to this matter, would be made as soon as possible.”
The meeting with the GAA bore fruit in that at the 24th January 1995 committee meeting “It was proposed that courts 3 and 4 be maintained, 3 to be a full sized doubles court and 4 a singles one. Court 3 would be floodlit and both courts resurfaced and fenced at approximate cost of £12,000. Courts 1 and 2 would be resurfaced at an approximate cost of £4,000.”
Planning permission to flood-light court 3 was achieved in January 1995 and all seemed set to start redevelopment. It was then that the club was contacted by Athlone UDC to participate in the provision of tennis facilities at the Regional Sports Centre. Accordingly the minutes from that October AGM state “Agreeing that this was a more attractive option in the long term, we decided …….to fundraise to cover the cost of the initial provision of three floodlit courts at the new Regional Sports Centre.”
Athlone GAA Interest
Athlone GAA committee members were very aware of negotiations with Athlone UDC about the proposed move to the Regional Sports Centre. A sentence from Mary O’ Neill’s report at October’s AGM reads “Of late the GAA has been in consultation with our Chairperson and are anxious that we remain here.” However any decision to remain at our present site would depend on a long term lease which was being sought through GAA Central Council.
At the 14th October 1996 committee meeting Chairperson, Patricia Smith reported on her recent meeting with the GAA. She informed the committee members present that the GAA “expressed a strong interest in retaining and allowing us to update the courts. A long lease could be negotiated through the County Board and a new agreement specifying rights to courts etc. would be drawn up.”
During her March 4th 1997 report to committee members, Patricia on her latest meeting with the GAA states, according to the minutes “The GAA were proposing, that the agreement, when drawn up, would be of a ten year duration. However she intimated to them that the club was seeking a twenty five year tenure of agreement before proceeding with the development.”
Croke Park Approval
June 3rd 1997 was the next committee meeting and as usual Patricia was informative. Officials in Croke Park had now given permission for the proposed development to proceed. Leinster Council and Westmeath County Board were also in favour. In her final report at the October 1997 AGM, Patricia “expressed the hope that the year ahead would see further progress in relation to further development at the GAA.
Patricia Smith served as Chairperson from October 1995 to October 1997. She was a very busy lady during those two years. Her record, as Chairperson, speaks for itself, during 1996 she chaired fourteen committee meetings and twelve in her second year. No other Chairperson has chaired as many meetings during their term in office. In fact no other Chairperson has achieved the dozen mark in a year.
Next week will deal with the twenty five year lease and the steady progress in developing the club’s facilities at Páirc Chiaráin.