Abbeyleix Tennis Club is amongst the oldest tennis clubs in Ireland having been opened in 1909. From the pages of the Leinster Express dated August 28th. 1909 we can see that over 100 of the locality’s “Great and Good” gathered for the formal opening of two grass courts together with “a charming pavilion in rustic works” which was the beginning of what is now one of the finest tennis clubs in the Midlands. It was originally sited in the Northern corner of what is now the Town’s Park but then known as Jelly’s Pit but in the 1930’s it was relocated at the Southern end of the park where three grass courts were laid out together with a charming wooden pavilion. The Veranda of that pavilion was supported by four iron pillars which had been used as gas lights along the Main street of the town and these four pillars can be seen today on the Pergola between the courts which commemorates the centenary of the Club.
All through the 1900s the Club provided an outlet for the town’s tennis players and indeed Abbeyleix had a well known name around the surrounding counties and indeed further afield for it’s famous Open American Tournament held annually on August Monday. It also fostered relations with surrounding Clubs with inter-club matches which were a feature of tennis life in the County. Even during the second World War when both motor transport and the fuel needed to propel cars were in very short supply the local tennis players fulfilled their match fixtures by travelling distances to other Clubs by bicycle.
The Tennis Club also provided a huge social venue for the young people of the town. In the 1940s and 50’s Dances would be held in The Town Hall after tennis matches and in the 60’s the youth of the town staged “Tennis Hops” in the Parochial Hall after matches with Clubs from as far afield as Bagnalstown, Athy and Tullamore.
The real development of the Club came in the late 1980’s ironically after a period when the Club had ceased to function and the facilities had lapsed into total disrepair. Billy White, a local Solicitor, can be credited with the revival of the Club’s fortune as he gathered around him a group of dedicated people who got the Club restarted. They were lucky in that an active Park Development Committee had been set up to develop the whole area. They started with three tar macadam courts and they obtained the use of a third of the structure erected by the Development Committee to install a Clubhouse. This was opened in 1989 and had showers and a kitchen to provide catering on Competition days.
From that time on it was a rapid progress to reach the stage the Club is at today. Assisted by Grants from the National Lottery the facilities were developed by adding extra courts to give five available for use. A synthetic all weather surface was added plus lighting to allow for tennis in the Winter evenings. The Clubhouse was also extended and now boasts wonderful facilities for the members and visitors alike.
The fostering of the game of tennis with young people has always been undertaken by the club and this carries on to this day. There could be over 100 children down at the courts on a Saturday and older children on specific times during the week especially in the Summer Holidays.
Visitors are always welcome at Abbeyleix Tennis Club and to arrange to play please contact
For those interested in the history of tennis in Abbeyleix an excellent book “ It started in Jelly’s Pit” is available from local bookshops.