South of Ireland event draws Tour de France champion

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greg le mondTHE 136th South of Ireland tennis championship takes place at Limerick Lawn Tennis Club (LLTC) from June 16 to 22, and among the competitors will be a well-known personality from another code.

Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, also a tennis enthusiast, will play in the Grade 5 Men’s Doubles competition, along with Eugene Pratt, a long-serving member of the Ennis Road club.

LLTC president Kevin Ryan said that the participation of the American cyclist is “great news” for the organisers and the club.

“This is great news, excellent news for the club and we only heard on Monday. He will no doubt be an attraction and he’s enthusiastic about tennis.

“He’s of a reasonable standard but I hope nobody expects him to be as good at tennis as he was at cycling!” beamed Mr Ryan.

The organisers will have 300 players taking part in the South of Ireland tournament, which begins on Sunday 16 and is the highest entry in the last five years.

There are many different levels of competition, which opens it up to the casual player as well as the serious competitor.

This year’s event sees a new category for beginners in men’s and ladies’ doubles, which Mr Ryan says is a testament to the growing membership of LLTC.

“It is very good news for the development of tennis. More and more people are taking up the sport, which has had up times and down times.

“There would not have been nearly as many people playing about six to eight years ago but it has had a revival since then. We have around 50 people on our beginners course, compared to five or 10 in previous years.

“We’re doing our best to encourage people to play tennis. It’s a great sport and you can keep at it for many years. It’s very sociable and you won’t get bumped or walloped playing it.”

Ian Donnellan, a member of the South of Ireland Tennis committee, believes that the introduction of the beginners competition will entice more new members to enter than if they were in with players of a higher standard.

He said: “We’re trying to encourage more and more new members to take up tennis. We’ve had a lot of new members join the club recently and we hope that with the beginners category, we will get more new players entering into competition, meeting new players from different clubs and gaining new experiences.

“Our vision for the South of Ireland competition is to make it as big as possible for Limerick and to share and celebrate the fantastic facilities that we have at our club.”