Club History

New Inn’s association with tennis goes back to the 1890s when Lena Rice of Marlhill House, New Inn came to the fore in the national tennis championships. In 1889 she was narrowly defeated in the final of the singles in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin. She won the mixed doubles that same year, and the following year 1890 she achieved what no other Irish woman has achieved by winning the Wimbledon singles championship.

In those days there were no courts in New Inn, and Lena Rice and her sister had to go to Cashel or Cahir to practice.

In the 1940s New Inn Tennis Club was up and running across the road from Ryan’s house and it had been run by Miss Ursula Downey.  It was quite successful for a number of years. The original door way to the courts is still visible across from Ryan’s house. It was a great social outlet at the time and in 1943 New Inn Lawn Tennis Club had their first annual dance in New Inn hall and the music was by Silver Stars from Clonmel and admission was 2/6. The Honouree Secretary of the club at that time was John Kelly.  In 1954, a new committee led by Fr James Meehan, bought a piece of land from a Mr. Franklin from Cahir for £10. It was here after the hall had been built by mostly voluntary labour for £1,400 that the new tennis courts and club started. 127 adults were joined the club, and membership fee for £1 and 10/= for children. Prominent members at the time were Surgeon Dr. Hogan, and Cashel hospital consultant Dr. Kahn. There were four grass courts at that time and they ran parallel to the road. Tournaments were held every second Friday evening and other clubs came from all over the county and from as far away as Littleton. It was one of the finest tennis clubs in Munster at the time. After the tennis tournament a dance was held in New Inn’s new hall and Pat Mc Namara and his band played the music. Towards the 1970s many of the original members had retired and sadly Fr.  James Meehan had become Parish Priest of Thurles. The hall and tennis courts fell into disrepair, the courts completely disappeared.

From time to time different groups tried to restore the hall and tennis courts but failed for lack of support.

In 1980 the New Inn development group were formed. The people involved were Mary Francis Barron, Peggy Nagle, Paddy O’Connor, Mary O’ Dwyer, Richard Loughnan and Tony Shortall. The group stayed together for next few years and did fund raisers by mean of field evenings, barbecues etc. In 1984 a new kitchen was added to the hall, at the A.G.M that year the following were elected to the committee Richard Loughnan, John Landy, Andrew Moloney, Eamon Barron, Fr. Tom  Flynn C.C, Mary Buckley, Breeda O Donnell, Eileen Bell, P.J Boland and Kathleen Hally and Fr. Meehan who had returned as P.P.

Early in 1987 the committee undertook major fund raising to erect the new tennis courts. Headed by Fr. Tom Flynn, a campaign to elect a mayor of New Inn was launched, votes were to cost £1 each and six candidates were chosen. The sale of tickets continued through that summer and a total of 26,222 tickets were sold. The mayor was won by John Mc Hugh, who beat Mrs. Phil Ryan by 974 votes, close third was John Landy. The other three participants were Connor English, Paddy O Connor and Billy Smith.

On August 15th 1987 the new tennis courts were open and officially blessed by Fr. James Meehan. He gave a special word of thanks to the committee for the difficult and hard work that had seen this great day. The cost of erecting these two fine courts was £11,000 no expense was spared and the best possible materials were used. The committee for the newly formed New Inn Tennis Club included Chairperson: Willie O’ Halloran, Vice Chairman: Jenny Boland, Secretary: Peter Riordan, Assistant Secretary: Eileen Riordan, Treasurer: Mary O’ Donnell and Assistant Treasurer: Phill Ryan.

On 16th June 1991 the Lena Rice Trophy was presented to the club by Fr. Meehan on his own behalf and on behalf of David Joe O’ Neill. Each year the club invites all local clubs to play for the honour of winning this trophy.

In 2000 Lena Rice was awarded the Tipperary Millennium Sports Star Award for Racquet Sports in recognition of her historic Ladies Singles win in Wimbledon in 1890 (the only Irish women to achieve this feat). Lena’s grandniece, Susan Faithfull, and Susan’s granddaughter, Anna Faithfull travelled from London to accept the award at a function in Dundrum House Hotel on 19/2/2000.

Floodlights were installed in 2003. The official “switch on” was performed by Niamh Luddy, our local Special Olympian on Friday 22nd June 2003.

The club commemorated the 100th anniversary of Lena Rice’s death on Friday 22nd June 2007. Susan Faithfull, her son & grandson attended an ecumenical service at Lena’s graveside to mark the occasion.

An all weather surface was installed on both courts in February 2009. This was made possible by extensive fundraising by club members over several years and by grant aid from Tipperary County Council and National Lottery funding. The assistance and support of the committee of New Inn Community Centre was invaluable in this project.

 Information courtesy of Eileen Bell
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