Tennis courts new members as clubs reopen for business

Social distancing will remain in place at any sports grounds that have reopened.
Social distancing will remain in place at any sports grounds that have reopened.

The rush for courts reopening after over two months under lock and key was expected. 

The anecdotal evidence that tennis clubs are experiencing something of a bump in membership enquiries maybe less so.

That's how yesterday played out for a number of clubs contacted by the 'Irish Examiner' as the majority of the 145 or so units based in the Republic of Ireland welcomed members inside the tram lines under phase one of the roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

“It's been really busy,” said Joe Murray, chairperson of Bishopstown Tennis Club in Cork with its eight courts. 

“We've actually had a lot of people on looking to join, I suppose because golf and tennis are the only sports back up and running yet, so it's going well.”

Among the others to experience a heightened interest among those in the wider community is the Malahide Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in North County Dublin which has had a number of calls from former members thinking about renewing their subs.

General manager Michael Byrne put that down to the realisation that, with travel likely to be complicated for some time yet due to the pandemic and its consequences, people are considering something like a tennis membership instead of foreign holidays.

Whatever the reasoning, all business is to be welcomed in clubs which range from small local operations in rural parishes to the major commercial operations in the city hubs after the extended pause in play and the adverse effect it has had on many as businesses.

Bishopstown, with 500 members, did have ambitious plans to roof three of their courts and build two paddle courts besides. 

That's all up in the air now given the economic uncertainty and the likelihood that government funding for such projects will be so much harder to source for the foreseeable.

Income will be affected further by the club's laudable decision to add two months on to existing memberships to make up for the time lost this term. 

There are difficult times still to come for the sport and the sector but yesterday wasn't a time to dwell on them.

Bishopstown's courts were full when it opened yesterday morning at 10am – they would normally be “dead” at that time on a Monday in ordinary times - and more or less stayed that way through to 10pm last night.

None of the clubs contacted reported any issues with adhering to social distancing protocols, even if every outpost has different questions to answer according to their size and location, number of members and the very nature of the surroundings.

Westport TC is a two-court operation with maybe 120 members. 

Among the posers they faced was a tight and confined car park and how to minimise the number of people touching the combination lock on the gates which those using the facility are used to opening and closing.

They weren't long getting around that although some small clubs were unable to open.

The courts on the Newport Road were booked almost solid through all of yesterday although that first rush of giddiness hasn't yet translated through the week. 

“That's normally how it is,” said chairperson Mary Ward. “People usually book the day before here.”

Most who spoke admitted that there was a certain weariness over the new restrictions but added that compliance was total and relief the key even though the day for many was speckled with rain and indoor courts still remain off limits.

Everyone is adapting. Malahide's over-70s, so fond of doubles, have taken to singles due to the restrictions on numbers from different households while the need for all players to provide their own tennis balls marked with permanent ink has gone smoothly.

“We were worried that we would have to monitor that but, no, everyone has been brilliant,” said Byrne in Malahide. 

“I think that is probably reflective of the way the country at large has approached everything the last few months.”

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