Tennis players looking to full return to competitions in club’s 50th year

In the third of a new feature series, Russell Keers details how a tennis club, which has been a part of the Whitehead community for almost half-a-century, has been providing an outlet forresidents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitehead Tennis Club was formed in 1972 with a small group of enthusiasts, led by Molly Coppock making up the first committee, after a previous club in the village folded in the 1960s.

The club, which is available to members aged 18 and over, is based at the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council-operated courts at the recreation grounds on Islandmagee Road.

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There are five artificial grass courts available from April to the end of September and two floodlit courts available from October to March, allowing the club’s members to enjoy playing throughout the year.

The club is marking its 50th anniversary next year.

The club hires use of the bowling pavilion from Whitehead Bowling Club, enabling use of changing accommodation and the provision of suppers after events.

Much in common with other sporting clubs across the province, the coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on activities over the last year and a half, however membership increased slightly as residents wished to exercise and interact with their neighbours.

Speaking to the Times, club treasurer Daphne Cairns said: “Covid-19 had quite an effect on the club as play was not permitted from late March until late May in 2020.

“Play was again stopped for two weeks in November 2020 and again from Christmas Eve 2020 until late March of this year.

Whitehead Tennis Club's players are looking forward to a full return to competitions in 2022.

“There was no league or club competition during 2020 and a limited league competition commenced in late June 2021. Entries for competitions were limited as pavilions could only be used for toilet facilities and no suppers were permitted due to the pandemic.

“We ran two club tournaments in August and September 2021. We would usually have two teams playing league tennis, but we entered one team in 2021.

“Our membership, mainly aged over 40, is usually numbered in the mid-twenties, but in 2020 it increased slightly as people were looking to exercise and have some outdoor social contact.

“In 2021, membership was slightly lower due to lack of competitive play and long term injuries.”

The club, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, has enjoyed some special milestones throughout its history.

Daphne explained: “Over the decades the club produced two senior Ulster players in addition to a number of players representing County Antrim in the Inter-County Competition and several playing representative for the Belfast and District League against the Dublin League

“During the late 1970s, the club hosted a West of Scotland team who were playing a senior Ulster team.”

Looking to the future, Daphne added: “New members are most welcome and can join at any time, although the main season commences in April.

“The club meets on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm and also on either a Tuesday or Wednesday morning (weather permitting) from October to March.

“We have a WhatsApp group for members, which allows them to check before travelling if others are playing.

“We would hope that by 2022 the pandemic would be under control, allowing a full return to the competitions so many members relish and that our members are fully fit.”

n We want to hear from sports clubs interested in being featured in this new series. Get in touch with Russell Keers - email [email protected]


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