Frank Boland: St. Conleth's Tennis Club

St.  Conleth’s  Lawn  Tennis   Club                                           

St. Conleth’s L.T.C. was founded in the early 1930s and was situated on the Naas Rd., on the site where the small housing estate, Old Connell Gate, is now located.  It was well known as the “bottom club” as it was located at the bottom end of the town.  There was another tennis club, Newbridge L.T.C., at the other end of the town at the present entrance to Pairc Mhuire.  St. Conleth’s grounds were leased from the Brazil family on an annual basis for a nominal sum.  The club was located on the town side of Brazil’s property.  Brazil’s house was close to Buckley’s Cross and their land lay on the Naas side of the club.  Mick Brazil, a prominent member (Chairman and Hon. Treas. many times) and also a leading player for many years, built a bungalow on this land next to the club in 1957.  Next door to the club on the main road, on the town side, was Casey’s house (originally Smith’s).  Matt and Mrs. Casey and children resided here.  Most of their girls and only boy Liam were prominent members in the 1950s and 60s.  The field adjoining the club grounds on the town side, between the club and what is now Duffy’s garage, belonged to Mr. Charlie Callaghan of lower Main St. and was leased for tillage to Mr. Jerry Maher, who lived across the road in St. Conleth’s Terrace.  Mr. Joe Murphy, builder and a former Hon. Sec. of the club in its early years, built a bungalow on the site of Casey’s house and a portion of Callaghan’s field in the 1960s. 

 The principal founding members of the club were Mr. Joe Partridge N.T., Athgarvan Rd.; Mr. Willie White, Naas Rd. and Rev. Fr. Ryan C.C.  A leading personality (chief organiser) in the early days was Mr. Jim Dunny, the noted bandleader.  Fr. Ryan and Jim were both enthusiastic tennis players, having played previously in Carlow.  Fr. Ryan held the position of club president until his transfer from Newbridge in 1953.  Facilities were fairly basic in the early days and consisted of only two grass courts.  The courts, whilst reasonably level, were improved with regular mowing with a hand mower and rolling with a heavy roller.  But they never reached anything like Wimbledon standard.  Not surprising really, when you consider that the land had been used previously by Mr.Brazil for grazing and producing a cock or two of hay.  There were no changing facilities and a small pavilion was built in the club’s early years.  Apparently, the club played a “friendly” tournament in Kildare L.T.C., who had a pavilion, and it was felt that the club should have one before the return match in Newbridge.  So, the carpenter members at the time, namely, Maurice and Paddy (Boiler) White, Hughie Dempsey Snr. and Mick Colleton, simply built one.  It was a timber-framed structure, covered with sheets of galvanised iron for the walls and roof.  It had three rooms – a general room and two small dressing rooms.  The outside walls/sheets were painted green, the roof red and the timber doors and windows white.  A feature of the main window was that it was made of timber sheeting and could be removed and placed on trestles to serve as the table.

The lists of members in the 1930s and 40s make for very interesting reading with many of the old Newbridge families, and the occasional newcomer to the town, featuring.  The majority of members initially came from the bottom end of the town. Naas Rd. families were very prominent with the Whites – Dickie, Maurice, Kevin, Paddy, Peggy and Gabriel; the Mahers – Eamon, Nancy and Sean; the Roches – Joe and Berna. From Chapel Lane came the Curran sisters – May, Kathleen, Bridie and Eileen. From Rowan Terrace came Eddie and Lottie Farrell, Joe and Con Murphy, Paddy Hayes, Paddy and Jim Coffey, Liam Byrne, and Mick Colleton. From the Commons/Roseberry area came Hughie and Paddy Dempsey, Phil Garrett, Paddy Harvey, Jackie and Paddy Armstrong, Peadar Grady and Paddy Dunne. From Lumville came the Barry family – Roger, Mick, John, Dinah and Mog. From Eyre St. came the Higgins sisters – Alice and Maggie.  Other early members were Tom Corcoran, Joe McTernan, Tommy Kelly (hackney), Lettie Daly, Maureen Ahearne, Sarah Mulrooney of Annfield Tce., Sarah Maxwell of John St., Rita Dowling of the Red Lane, Pidge Moran, Nancy and Ita O’Hanlon, Paddy and Willie Gainey.  Regrettably, there is no documentation from that period to show an official listing of members.  But thankfully, there are several photographs in existence.  There was a special membership category called “pavilion membership” which catered for the non-playing social members, of which there were many.  In the earlier days of the club, many non-members also came down to the club and sat around on the surrounding banks to look at the play and also take note of the talent/players.  It was a popular meeting place in those days of little entertainment.  The social element of the club’s activities – mainly tennis tournaments (called “friendlies”) played home and away and usually followed by a dance – was a significant part in the life of the club.  Anyway, the club seems to have been a successful happy hunting ground for both the pavilion and playing members.  The following are some of the members who changed their single status to married couples in the early years of the club: Jim Dunny and Lottie Farrell; Roger Barry and May Curran; Joe Murphy and Nancy O’Hanlon; Maurice White and Kathleen Curran.  This practice is a noticeable feature in the club down through the years and will receive mention further on in this story.

The club was closed during the war years from 1941 as the members were otherwise preoccupied.  Besides, tennis balls were no longer available.  The courts reverted to pasture and Brazil’s donkey grazed contentedly there.  It was around this time that Fr. Ryan and Jim Dunny started St. Conleth’s Pantomime Troupe.  The initial nucleus of the troupe came from the tennis club membership.  Early prominent members of the pantomime included Paddy and Hughie Dempsey, Nancy Maher, Ita and Nancy O’Hanlon.  Other club members, Joe and Des McLoughlin, delivered the pantomime troupe and props to their performances outside Newbridge in their father’s lorry.  This connection between the club and the pantomime continued down through the years and the following members’ names come to mind; Larry Bradley, John Brazil, Kevin Barry, Liam Ward, Jack Lavelle, Pat and Sue Treacy, Pauline Harrigan, to name just a few. 

[L to R, Christy White, May O’Rourke, Frankie Boland, Liam Casey (standing), Johnny Cox, Dom King,  ---, Tony White, Tessie Kehoe.]


After the war years, Fr. Ryan made a few efforts to restart the club and was successful in 1946.  Sean Leamy of Nolan’s bar and grocery, Eyre St. (now Rose Earley’s) was a willing volunteer and proved to be an excellent organiser and very resourceful in that time of shortages.  One of the teething problems of the re-organised club was the lack of members with knowledge of the rules and regulations of tennis.  Some of the younger members who had played previously including Peggy White, Nancy Maher, Bridie Curran, Eamon Maher and Joe Roche, proved to be invaluable in this regard; they were able to induct the many new members.  Three grass courts were now in play but they had obviously deteriorated significantly during the lay-off years during the War.  It was decided to re-lay the original front two courts in 1947 and the contract was granted to George Speirs, landscaper from Burtown, Athy.  This turned out to be a less than attractive contract as the ground required more levelling than expected.  Another significant task undertaken at this time was the replacement of the surrounding wire netting and the timber supporting poles.  Sean Leamy was now excelling himself at sourcing materials and equipment.  Steel poles were procured inDundalkthrough the help of Joe McLoughlin and were collected by McLoughlin’s lorry.  A young John McLoughlin travelled on this trip with his elder brother, Dessie. The “poles” were originally pipes from a steam train.  It was necessary for holes to be bored in them to tie the wire and this major task (remember, no power tools then) was undertaken by Paddy Duffy in McCabe’s Garage, Edward St.  No doubt, Nancy Maher used her influence.  Sean Leamy was also instrumental, around this time, in purchasing furniture for the pavilion.  Folding tables and seating forms were purchased at an auction in one of the Bord na Mona turf camps.  He also purchased the club’s first motorised lawnmower in 1949.  A new line marker, which was a significant improvement on the previous one, was also purchased in the early 1950s.  It had two wheels for the operation of feeding the whitening to the actual marking wheel as against only one in the old marker.  The old marker found its way to Ryan’s Field where Kevin Barry used it to mark out the soccer pitch there.  The club never had a grounds-man as such, so the courts were cut and marked voluntarily by the members.  A putting green was laid in the early 1950s after its popularity was noted at a “friendly” in Castleknock L.T.C.  The club provided putters and golf balls and the game became very popular with both the tennis players and the pavilion members.  It also helped to fill in the time whilst waiting for a court to become vacant.

The post war years of the 1940s and the early 50s heralded a large influx of new members.  Some of the pre-war members had also re-joined.  The following names are taken from the official list of members for the 1951 season (unfortunately, this list is the only original club document available from that period).

  Ladies: Mamie Coll and Nancy Maher, Joint Hon. Secs. Committee member Evelyn Hayes. Members: Rita Craddock, Teresa Craddock, Maura Dunne, Carmel Kavanagh, P. Larkin, F. Larkin, Jenny Magee, Delia Mullins, Pam Murphy, Pat Murphy, Nuala Murphy, Mary O’Grady, May O’Rourke, P. O’Reilly, Berna Roche, Pat Treacy, Sue Treacy, Gaye White, Peggy White, Jo Carey, Mrs. J. McLoughlin (Maura Carey). 

Gents: Fr. Ryan, President; Mick Brazil, Chairman/Treasurer. Committee members: Sean Leamy, Noel Lennon, Eamon Maher, Joe Roche, Enda Sweeney. Members: Larry Bradley, John Brazil, Willie Brazil, Tim Buckley, Addie Casey, Brendan Conlan, Tommy Buckley, Tom Corcoran, Mick Craddock, Hughie Dempsey Snr., Tom Dolan, Miko Doyle, Ger Dunne, Billie Gallagher, Sean Maher, Morny Murrihy, Dessie McLoughlin, Joe McLoughlin, Eddie O’Connor, John O’Neill, Donal O’Rourke, David Roach, Willie Sex, Paddy Terry, Dickie White, Jim Coffey, Eamon Carey.

Juveniles: Bernie Bergin, Marie Bergin, Eunice Bergin, Chris. Buckley, Betty Brazil, Joan Casey, Mary Casey, Marjorie Casey, Phyllis Colleton, Maeve Corcoran, P. Dillon, Marie Dolan, Kay Geraghty, B. Halford, Una Halford, Maureen Hayes, Kay Hall, Moira Murphy, Maeve Magee, M. O’Reilly, Ann O’Donoghue, Peggy Scanlan, Ann Tierney. 

Note that the men were all gents then. Another feature of this membership list is that there is only one married lady on it.  That’s the way it was then.  Also notable is that there are no boys on the juvenile list.  They were around o.k. but must have forgotten to pay up.  Annual membership fees then in 1951 were 10 shillings (less than a euro) for Seniors (adults) and 5 shillings for Juveniles.  The following were also members around this period: Tempy Walsh, Maura Conlan, Jack Lavelle, Willie Devine, Hugh Major, Sean McLoughlin, Mary O’Connor, Ita Wallace, Paddy O’Neill, Deirdre Coogan, Vera Rochford, Paddy Byrne, Peggy Byrne, Monica Byrne, Tom Kehoe, Noel Hensey, Cliff Casey, Kevin Barry, Matt Dunne, Alec Dunne, Mattie Melia and Brid Buckley.  Newbridge Athletic Club did their training in Kelly’s field, next to back of the tennis club (now Connell Drive) for a period in the early 50s and used the tennis club pavilion for togging out.  Some of the athletes, including Johnny (Danno) Cox, Vincent Brazil, Johnny Brennan, John Ryan, Sean O’Reilly and Billy Murphy, joined the tennis club then.  Many others such as the following also joined the club later on in the 1950s and continued their membership into the 1960s and beyond: Liam Coffey, Hughie Dempsey Jnr., Kathleen Kehoe, Marie Dunne, Oliver Murphy, P.J. Grady, Brian Matthews, Jim Flood, Liam and Mary White, Vera Coogan, Dom King (Hon. Sec. for many years), Josie King, Bernie Maxwell, Margaret Murphy, Liam Ward, Marian Gleeson, Peggy McGovern, Elizabeth Cox, Pauline Harrigan, Peadar Smyth, Richie McLaughlin, Betty Byrne, Ann Curran, Teresa Casey, Nuala Byrne, Tessie Kehoe, Mick Hynes, Michael Curran and Ger Murphy.  Fr. O’ Gorman became the President of the club in 1954 on Fr. Ryan’s transfer to Clonaslee, and served in this capacity until he was transferred from Newbridge in 1963.  He was a regular at the club and confined his playing activity to the putting green.  Fr. Harrington succeeded him as Club President in 1964. 

The Parish Priest, Mgr. Miller, brought him down to the club one summer’s evening and introduced him to the members present.


[Front row: L to R, ---, ----, Pam Murphy, Noel Hensey, Pat Murphy, William Murphy.

Mid. row: L to R, Carmel Casey, Ollie Noone, Moira Murphy, Joe Barry, -----, -----.

Back row: L to R, Jim Flood, Noel Lennon, Moira Barry, Kevin Barry, -----]


The social aspect of the club continued to be an important element of the club’s activities.  The organising and running of regular dances in conjunction with “friendly” tournaments, as well as an annual supper dance in the Town Hall, played an important role in this regard.  It was also a major factor in improving the financial position of the club.  Cupid continued to work efficiently within the membership.  The following members from the above lists fell under his spell and were married: Joe McLoughlin and Maura Carey; Paddy White and Jo Carey; Mick Brazil and Mamie Coll; Donal O’Rourke and Evelyn Hayes; Sean Leamy and Maura Conlan; Eamon Maher and Mary O’Grady; Vincent Brazil and Rita Craddock; Cliff Casey and Marie Dunne; Brendan Conlan and Tempy Walsh; Willie Sex and Delia Mullins; Paddy Terry and Berna Roche; Eddie O’Connor and Brid Buckley; Mattie Melia and Peggy Scanlan; Willie Brazil and Kathleen Kehoe; Noel Hensey and Josie King; P.J. Grady and Moira Murphy.

In 1955 permission was granted by Mr. Brazil, the land owner, for the building of a hard court to replace one of the front grass courts.  Apparently the weather the previous summer had been very wet and, as a consequence, play on the grass courts had been severely curtailed. Now this belies the notion that the summer weather was always better in the past. Although in defence of this notion, the grass courts were always marked for the start of the tennis season on the first Sunday of May in the 1950s and 60s and this would be an unlikely possibility with current weather trends.  All the work on the excavation and the laying of the hard court was done on a voluntary basis by the members.  Brian Matthews, Jim Flood and Willie Brazil spent many Tuesday afternoons toiling on the project.  They were off work on Tuesday afternoons as shops closed for a half day every Tuesday in Newbridge then.  Johnny Cox facilitated the drawing away of the excavated clay with his pony and cart.  It was spread on Brazil’s ground at the Kelly’s field end.  Paddy O’Neill supplied and delivered the stones and hard core for the foundations.  The tarmacadam was purchased from Roadstone in Allen and collected by Paddy O’Neill.  A vibrator roller, a rare machine at the time, was loaned from Geraghty Builders through the good offices of club President, Fr. O’ Gorman.  They had been the main contractors on the recently built St. Conleth’s Primary School. Paddy O’Neill’s lorry was called into action again and, with Paddy as the driver and Mick Brazil as helper, the collection and eventual return of the machine to Geraghty’s yard in Celbridge was successfully completed.  Funnily enough, the weather following the laying of the hard court was very warm and it took ages for the tarmacadam to set properly.  Eventually, the new facility proved to be a great boon and now play was possible in all weathers and all year round.  The court was often cleared of snow to allow play in the winter.

The scenario regarding tennis attire in the club up to the early 1950s was similar to a scene from the Victorian era.  White for everything was the order of the day.  Even the tennis balls were white then.  Gents (not men by the way!) would wear long white trousers and white shirts and the ladies wore below the knee white dresses.  These whites were only worn for tournaments with other clubs.  In everyday play at the club or for internal competitions, the players would wear their usual everyday clothes.  The men would take off their ties and perhaps collars and roll up their shirt sleeves.  The ladies would usually wear loose fitting dresses or skirts and blouses.  There were no track suits around then and a photograph from 1951 shows the ladies wearing top coats over their tennis dresses.  It was well into the 1950s before the men togged out in shorts for tournaments, and it was the 1960s before shorts became standard everyday tennis attire.  The ladies continued to wear summer type clothes for general play but the 1960s raised the hemline for the tennis dresses.  Tennis slippers or runners also had to be white and came in many standards.  The slippers/runners/shoes did not have heels and the soles were rubber of various quality and the tops were made of canvas.  Regular treatment with a whitening solution was necessary to keep the canvas white and looking well.  The most popular ones were manufactured by Dunlop’s and were available from Roycroft’s drapery (now Terry Michaels).  The top of the range shoe, Dunlop Green Flash, meant a trip to Dublin to make a purchase.    The slippers/runners/shoes lasted a long time on grass court play, but the hard court severely shortened their lives. 

In the early years of the club, tennis balls were supplied free of charge for play.  But this perk stopped, probably when the hard court came into use, as it was very hard on the wear and tear of the tennis balls.  Tennis balls were stocked locally in the hardware stores: Price’s, initially, and later on in Keegan’s as well.  They were two types available, Fort and Warwick, and both were manufactured by Dunlop.  Fort was the more expensive while Warwick was cheaper and of poorer quality.  Stocked in cardboard boxes of 6, they could be bought in whatever quantity required.  It was not unusual to buy a single tennis ball, although the ideal was to buy a pair at a time. Economics was the deciding factor.  There was no question of them being the correct pressure as the pressurised can of to-day did not exist.  The buyer, if he was experienced, would give the ball a squeeze and hopped it to check the pressure.  If the stock in the shop was old, they would be inclined to be too soft and dead.  The Warwick ones were softer (and consequently slower) than the Fort ones anyway.  As both brands of tennis balls wore and the nap/fuzz faded, they became lighter and livelier.  General practice was to serve with the lighter one first, as it was faster, and to use the other one for the second service as it was heavier and more receptive to spin and thus helped to avoid the dreaded double-fault.  That was the theory anyway!

There was little change in the description of the racquet until the 1970s.  Up until then, racquet frames were all made of laminated wood and needed to be enclosed in what was called a “press” to prevent the frame from warping when not in use.  This consisted of a four sided timber frame which was tightened with wing nuts at each corner to exert pressure. This was supposed to prevent the racquet warping.  One of the wing nuts was hinged to allow the racquet to enter the frame and to be enclosed.  The presses were improved in the 1960s and the pressure was evenly applied by a steel clasp/spring rather than the manually tightened four screws.  Most racquets since the 70s were made of composite materials including carbon fibre (graphite) or fibreglass and the necessity for a press disappeared with the demise of the old timber frame.  Prior to the late 1960s, the size of the racquet head was standard at around 65 square inches.  The new composite materials in the frame opened the door for the introduction of non-standard size heads of up to 90 and 95 square inches.  The American racquet manufacturers popularised the oversize racquet and some had a head as large as 110 square inches.  Not too many of these oversize racquets made it to St. Conleth’s and those that did were regarded as a bit of a novelty.  Racquets tended to be heavier in the timber frame days.  A gent’s racquet would weigh over 13 ounces.  You differentiated weight wise between gents, ladies and juvenile racquets.  Racquets had to be purchased in Dublin as they were not stocked locally initially.  Elverys were the premier supplier in the earlier days and Clerys and Helys came into the market later.  Most of the racquets sold were the stores own brand or Dunlop’s.  Gray Russell racquets were manufactured in Portarlington and these became popular and were stocked by Prices and Keegans  The top of the range model for many years was the Dunlop Maxply and every good player aspired to have one but, once again, it was economics that decided.  An indicator of the lack of variety in racquets is highlighted by the interest that Hughie Dempsey Jnr.(one of the leading players in the 1950s) generated in the club when he brought a very decorative Slazenger racquet back from the Isle of Man.

Although the string is an integral part of the racquet, it merits a paragraph of its own to tell its history and story in the club.  In the early days of the club, all racquets were strung with what was called cat gut.  Now it had no connection with the cat as it is produced from part of a cow’s intestine.  Whilst this string was excellent for a quality performance, unfortunately its life expectancy was greatly reduced when it got wet (rain and dew). One could paint the strings with nail varnish to keep them dry as a precaution.  When they got wet, they would start to fray and you could see their life actually fraying away.  There would be a sudden snap and that stopped play there and then.  The alternative was to continue on and risk far more “stringing” problems.  The modern practice of a complete restringing was not an economic proposition back then.  The actual repair job was done in one of the Dublin sports shops and the delivery and collection on an a.s.a.p. basis was quite an operation in the old days (1940s and 50s, even the 60s).  Sometimes, C.I.E. and An Post had to come to the rescue.  Synthetic gut, principally nylon and other synthetic material became available in the 50s.  These strings were less affected by the wet and offered greater durability and consistency of performance and, thankfully, were less expensive.  It was claimed that they did not perform as well as the natural catgut.  Sure wasn’t it great to be able to blame the racquet when necessary!

The juvenile section was very active in the late 1950s and early 60s and supplied many of the senior players of later years.  Members included: Tom O’Connor, William Murphy, Frankie Boland, Roger Barry, Christy White, Hughie Garrett, Tony White, Richard Harvey, Liam Casey, Lynn Corcoran, Angela Coogan, Marie Mc Govern, Celine O’Connor, Aileen Kehoe, Ursula O’Reilly, Loretta Corcoran, Pam Kennedy, Angela Murphy, Pauline Fahey, Maureen Barry, Maureen Gainey, Jack Ussher, Trish Brennan, Maura Brennan, Noeleen Barry, Carmel Barry, Pat Boland, Patricia Kavanagh, Ann Doody, Carmel Caffrey, Ger O’Reilly, Martina White, Carmel Casey, Tony Murphy, Jane McLaughlin, Terry O’Brien, Gaye O’Brien, Rosaleen Dempsey, Kathleen Scanlan, Podge Kehoe, Jimmy Coffey, Loretta McCabe.  An interesting feature of these names is the fact that many of them were related to the original members and also had older siblings as current members.  Tournaments were organised internally, and with other clubs following sustained “promptings” to the Hon. Sec. Dom King by the juniors.

 Many new senior members also joined the club in the late 50s and early 60s.  Amongst them were Jackie Hayes, Dympna Brady, Liam Ward, Bruce Andrew, Ted Brennan, Tommie Whelan, Nicky Mahon, Maurice O’Neill, Dennis Brennan, Owen McGuigan, Tony Fagan, Justin Brady, Brendan Hayes, Noel Coffey, Art Coffey, Jacinta Clavin, Mary Vaughan, Anne Delaney, Imelda Murphy, Ann Corcoran, Vinnie O’Reilly, Ann O’Connell, Frances Ryan, Bobby Flynn, Catherine O’Reilly, Michael Casey, Ciaran O’Carroll, Ann Finnerty, Bill Burns, May Bergin, Jean McKenna, Anthony Linden, Kevin Dooley, Winnie Halford and Ena Carter.

The building of the “new” pavilion in 1960 was a significant development for the club.  The previous one, whilst having served the club well, did not now satisfy members’ requirements.  The new one was built on the site of the old pavilion at the end of the hard court and adjoining the main road.  An interesting aside in relation to the demolition of the old pavilion was that the old galvanised sheeting had the word Katanga stamped on it, signifying that it had originated in that area of special significance to our army.  The new pavilion was built by the voluntary labour of the members, and Mick Brazil played an important leading role in this project.  The building consisted of a large general room, a kitchen and two dressing rooms.  Viewing of the courts from the pavilion was possible as the side facing the courts consisted of a series of windows.  The new pavilion facilitated the holding of regular “hops” and also the playing of table tennis.  The “hops” were held on Sunday evenings with a nominal admission charge of a shilling or two (less than 5 and 10 cents).  The admission charge and the sale of minerals provided some additional revenue for the club.  Members brought their own records to provide the music, while the Murphy family of St. Conleth’s Avenue usually loaned their “black box” record player.  Prior to the building of the new pavilion, musical entertainment was generated in singsongs, ably led by Noel Lennon as choirmaster and music from Sean O’Reilly (Jim Dunny’s band) on the saxophone.  These musical interludes usually followed the end of play on summer evenings as light faded and they were still a regular occurrence in the 1960s.  Often at the end of play on an evening, tennis players would call into Kearns’ ice cream parlour on Main St. on the way up town.  Ice cream in a glass with a dribble (quantity dependent on the server) of raspberry cordial was the preferred treat of the majority.

Newbridge Table Tennis Club was reformed in the early 1960s and they played in the new pavilion for a few years.  Some of the club’s members were involved in the re-organising  of the table tennis club and included  Pat Murphy, Pam Murphy, Moira O’Grady (Murphy), Angela Murphy, William Murphy, Richie Mc Laughlin, Ann Delaney, Liam Coffey, Margaret Murphy, Frankie Boland.   A few of the original members of the former  table tennis club in the town – Nancy Duffy (Maher), Maura (May) O’Rourke, Jim Coffey, who had all been St. Conleth’s L.T.C. members in the 50s – also joined the reformed table tennis club . 

[L to R: Liam Ward, Noel Lennon, Johnny Cox, Josie King, Christy White, Tony White.]


Up to the mid1960s most of the tennis tournaments with other clubs fell into the category of what were called “friendlies”.  Tournaments in Portarlington, Tullow, Kildare, Carlow, Celbridge, Kilcullen, Monasterevin, Mountrath, Clondalkin and Castleknock (with returns in Newbridge) were the order of the day for almost every Sunday during the summer.  Regular “friendlies” were also played with Newbridge L.T.C., though perhaps less friendly than the others!  The teams for these matches comprised of 6 ladies and 6 gents playing 6 mixed doubles, 3 ladies doubles and 3 men’s doubles. Another regular tournament was called an American tournament, with an open draw for partners for mixed doubles as well as a handicap scoring system.  Many clubs held open American tournaments and confined ones were also held regularly in St. Conleths.  Most tournaments were followed with a sit down tea and a dance in the local clubhouse or dance hall that evening.  Transport for away tournaments would have been in short supply amongst the members, particularly in the earlier years. Hackney services were provided by Jimmy Mac, Tommy Kelly and Dessie McLoughlin.  In later years, the members’ own transport was supplemented by hackney men, Sean O’Brien and Tom O’Hanlon. 

Serious competitive inter-club matches were not played until the early 1960s, apart from the occasional Cutlery Cup matches with Newbridge L.T.C. The following is the team which won the 1959 Cutlery Cup:                                                                                                             

Ladies: Betty Brazil, Pat Murphy, Pam Murphy, Dom and Josie King, Moira Murphy.       

Gents: Mick Brazil, Joe Roche, Hughie Dempsey jnr., Oliver Murphy, Willie Brazil, William Murphy.                                                                                                                                    

Cutlery Cup matches were also played between St. Conleths and Naas L.T.C. (then called the Co. Kildare Club) on a home and away basis.  The 1967 match in Naas finished level and St. Conleths won the trophy by winning their home match.  The winning team was:                

Ladies: Maureen Barry, Margaret Murphy, Anne Delaney, Ann Corcoran, Pauline Fahey, Imelda Murphy.                                                                                                                                      

Men: Frankie Boland, Roger Barry, Mick Brazil, Richie McLaughlin, Kevin Dooley and Joe Roche.                                                                                                                                           

The club entered teams in the Leinster Provincial Towns competition for several years in the 1960s and early 70s.  Matches were played against Naas, Carlow, Tullamore, Kilkenny, Stackallen, Navan, Longwood, Bettystown, Arklow, Wicklow, Bunclody, Drogheda, Dundalk, Mullingar, Edenderry, North Kildare (Kilcock), Portarlington and Enniscorthy.  The team comprised 4 ladies and 4 gents and each match comprised of 4 mixed doubles, 2 ladies doubles and 2 men’s doubles. The first team won the competition a few times and the 1963 winning team was:                                                                                                                                          

Ladies: Margaret Murphy, Maureen Barry, Trish Brennan, Ann Corcoran and Josie King.     

Men: Frankie Boland, Mick Brazil, Roger Barry and Nicky Mahon.                                    

Additional members of later winning teams were Richie McLaughlin, Ann O’Connell and Frances Ryan.                                                                                                                               

The club first entered a men’s team in the Dublin Leagues in 1965.  One of the entry conditions was that the location of the club had to be within 25 miles of Nelson’s Pillar, i.e. the centre of Dublin city (now the location of The Spire).  We were on the borderline and just about qualified.  Another condition of entry was that the club had to have sufficient grass courts to allow for the playing of 9 matches (6 singles and 3 doubles) on a Sat. afternoon.  The rules, at that time, stated that a team could not be forced to play on a hard court and as the club only had two grass courts, it was a bit difficult to fulfill this condition and play all the required matches.  So after the first year, it was decided that we would forego home advantage and play all our matches away.  This arrangement suited both the Dublin clubs and ourselves as we really did not have the facilities and were more used to travelling into the city than they were used to travelling down the country. The men also played in the Dublin Winter Leagues, playing 3 doubles on a Sunday morning. Travelling to Dublin in the 60s to play matches and to find the location of the clubs was quite an adventure.  On returning to Newbridge after a match, Joe Roche would always say that when you see Big Ben (College Clock) you’re home again!  Joe, who formed a very formidable doubles partnership with Mick Brazil for almost 30 years, could always be relied on for the witty remark.  An over ambitious shot or a call query usually elicited the comment from him that the instigator was a supreme optimist.  The men’s team played in the Dublin Leagues for seven years and included Frankie Boland, Roger Barry, Mick Brazil, Richie McLaughlin, Joe Roche, William Murphy and Liam Coffey in the earlier years.  Other members of the team in later years were Maurice O’Neill, Bruce Andrew, Kevin Dooley and Tommie Whelan.  The team usually challenged for league honours in their class each year.  They were overall runners-up in 1966 and also won the cup knock-out competition the same year.  Frankie Boland, having been unbeaten in all matches in 1966, was selected for a league representative team to play against the Belfast League’s team in the annual match that year.  The ladies also played in the Dublin Leagues in 1965. But it was only for one season, as ladies matches were played on weekday evenings and there were major logistical difficulties in travelling to the Dublin clubs after work.  The team members were Margaret Murphy, Ann Corcoran, Anne Delaney, Josie King, Imelda Murphy and Maureen Barry.

The names of the juniors in the l960s and early 70s once again highlight the continuation of the new generation of members, particularly Naas Rd. families.  The Duffy family provided Anne, Mary, Helen and Pat, all following in the footsteps of their mother, Nancy (Maher).  Then there were the McCormacks, Joe and Barbara, whose mother was Peggy White.  The Mahers, Anne, John and Marie whose father and mother Eamon and Mary (O’Grady) were members in the 40s and 50s.  The Murphy family of Naas Rd. had Jodie, Eithne and Imelda.  Both of their parents, Joe and Nancy (O’Hanlon) were also prominent members in the early days.  The White families supplied Maura, Helen, David, Des and Catherine, children of Dickie and Paddy, also members from the early days of the club.  Chanelle and Noelle Corcoran were daughters of early member, Tom Corcoran.  Ken Coffey, son of Jim, and Deirdre Coffey, daughter of Paddy, also former members.  Jerry Maher, son of Sean, another former member.  Pat Brazil, son of Mick and Mamie (Coll), both prominent members of many years. The following were also junior members in the 1960s and early 70s: Jodie and Noel Caffrey, Des Garrett, Leslie Turner, Brian Geraghty, Ursula Conlan, Noel Larkin, Martina Mannion, Frank Murphy, Tom Shaw, Monica and Lucy Meehan, Mary Meegan, Bridget Dempsey, Ger Cassidy, Tom Maguire (Naas Rd.), Mary and Lindy Dingle, Liz O’Shea.

  Another recurring feature was the activities of Cupid amongst the members during the 1960s and 70s.  Margaret Murphy and Tony White, Carmel Caffrey and Ger O’Reilly, Bridget Dempsey and Noel Larkin, Monica Meehan and Jodie Caffrey, Anne Duffy and Ken Coffey, Eithne Murphy and Pat Duffy all tied the marriage knot.  Some of the committee members in the club during this period were Joe Roche, Chairman, and later on Richie McLaughlin; Frankie Boland, Hon. Sec.; Roger Barry, Hon. Treas.; Mick Brazil, Margaret Murphy, Angela Coogan, Pauline Fahey, Sean O’Reilly, Noel Lennon, Michael Casey, Ciaran O’Carroll. 

The club fell into a bit of a decline for a short period in the middle of the 1970s.  Many of the previous senior members retired around this time.  However a new successful period which lasted about 5 years was in full swing by the late 1970s, with the young batch of former junior members now to the fore.  The following were officers and committee members during this period: Ken Coffey and John Maher as Hon. Chairman; Anne Coffey(Duffy) as Hon. Sec.; Vinnie O’Reilly and Mick Higgins as Hon. Treas. and committee members Jody and Noel Caffrey and Monica Caffrey(Meehan).  The hard court was re-surfaced by Roadstone in 1977.  Renovations were also carried out to the pavilion by the members under the guiding hand of John Maher and with the help of the ever-reliable Mick Brazil.  The putting green was replaced with a new grass court laid by Mick Brazil.   The usual tournaments, “friendlies” with other clubs, internal competitions and American tournaments were played.  Teams from the club also played in the Dublin Leagues and Provincial Towns Cup again.  The Dublin League players were Ken Coffey, Vinnie O’Reilly, Tom Keogh, Ciaran O’Carroll, Josh/Tony McGiff. John Maher, Pat Duffy, Declan O’Leary, Eugene Quinn, Joe McCormack and Dick Shaw.  Towns Cup team players were: Ladies – Mary Duffy, Helen Duffy, Paula Keegan, Liz Duffy, Imelda Murphy(Naas Rd.), Mary Berney, Anne Coffey, Brid Leddy, Esther Crilly and Mary Fay.  The male Towns Cup team members, in addition to the above named Dublin League players, were Jody and Noel Caffrey, Dave McConnell, Eamon Maher, Des Garrett, Jerry Maher and Pat Brazil.  The following were also some of the members during this period: Ray Hill, Mark Masterson, Brid Feeney, Ann Maher, David Swan, Joe Crilly, Charlie Hannigan, Seamus Aspell, Noel Byrne, Patricia Kavanagh, Pat O’Leary, B. Stack, G. Ryan, T. Gavin, S. Kelly, M. Donoghue, D. Walsh, J. O’Brien, L. Kiely and also junior family members.  The Great Connell area also supplied some junior members, and amongst them were David and Peter Barry, Rory and Jean O’Donnell, Sandy Shaw, Paul and Sean Cooke, Kieran, David and Alan Coffey.  As evidenced from many of the above surnames, the links with the previous generation of members continued.

The successful operation and development of the club during this period was severely hampered by the shortage of courts, particularly as 3 of them were grass; generally, hardcourts were now more widely used than grass.  In fact, Dublin League rules now stated that teams would only play on grass by agreement. Therefore, it became necessary to use some outside hardcourts to complete the Dublin League match of 9 games. The courts at the College and also those of Denis Fay and John Coughlan were sometimes used.  Also, it was not possible for financial and other reasons to install additional hard courts.  Parking was another serious problem, with no space available in the club grounds or on the increasingly busy main road at the club entrance.   The re-surfacing of the hard court proved to be a severe financial burden and necessitated much fundraising.  The usual old fashioned tennis club “hops” were a big help but eventually they had to be discontinued because of increasing anti-social behaviour and even worse.  A novel fund-raising effort, a tennis marathon, was organised and went on all night in the Patrician Brother’s gym.  In an effort to provide better facilities and to safeguard the future of tennis in the town, the committee held discussions with Newbridge Town F.C. regarding installing hard courts in their grounds on Station Road.  However, this initiative proved to be unsuccessful.

Eventually in 1986, faced with the on-going difficulties regarding facilities for playing and parking and also with the additional new problem of continuous vandalism, it was reluctantly decided to disband the club.

Frank Boland © 2015