It may have had the Marquis of Ormonde and then the Earl of Ormonde as its first presidents dating back to 1879, but these days the Kilkenny Tennis Club boasts some 800 members of all ages, and you don’t even have to know how to play tennis to join.
The Kilkenny County and City Lawn Tennis Club, to use its full name, is located off the Bennettsbridge Road in the city near Kilkenny Castle, and on any given night most of its eight courts will be full of people of all abilities taking part in the game.
This is the time of year approaching the annual membership drive in April, with the winter-time “frostbite league” coming to an end and with many people starting to take up outdoor activities now that the days are getting brighter.
And, says committee member and former captain Jimmy Morrow, those who join the club come from “all walks of life.”
“I, for example, joined when I moved to Kilkenny 20 years ago,” he says. “There are a lot of people who come to Kilkenny and join a club as a way of meeting people, so we get a lot of new people. It’s a very diverse club.”
There are people who have played other sports at various stages of their life, and those who are starting from scratch. For those wanting to learn basic skills or improve their game, there are three coaches on hand for group coaching, junior coaching and tennis camps.
And, he says, “there is a diverse age range, from people who are eight years old to members in their 70s,” which means that players can be paired with and against others of a similar ability.
What they have in common is that they are “people who want to get out and play sport in a social environment,” Mr Morrow says. “There is tennis for all levels – you don’t have to be Andre Agassi.”
There is also a strong volunteer ethos, with people giving of their time to organise various tournaments and events, and a vibrant social aspect to the club, notes club president Joe Kelly, who is currently at the helm along with club captain Pat Brett.
During the summer, for example, the club hosts Friday night mixed-doubles tournaments, with participants gathering in the clubhouse pavilion and bar afterwards, and Saturday night sponsored tennis with food and music on the night.
A major event in the year is the inter-firms tournament in which local companies enter teams, and which includes barbecues and bands for the two weeks of the tournament.
It’s often such a hit, Mr Morrow says, that it usually attracts new members to join.
For more information on joining, see www.kilkennytennisclub.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the club’s membership secretary Rena O’Connor on 086 3060449.