The IRTA returned to the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club for the weekend of 29th and 30th September 2007. An advance party reached Manchester on the Friday and spent part of the afternoon at the city's art gallery, looking at pictures including the lion which inspired the Lyle's Golden Syrup logo, and works by L. S. Lowry.
On Saturday morning the group assembled at the tennis club. The IRTA travellers had all played before, but each welcomed the opportunity to start the day with a lesson with the MRTC professional Steve Brockenshaw. Skills having been refreshed, it was time to put what we had learned into practice with some testing games against local opposition.
First up was David Lowry, who pressed home the benefit of a generous handicap to defeat Stella Heap 6–2, 6–1. The rest of the morning saw the IRTA take on a local father and son combination at doubles, and with much strategic use of chases, and effective serving by Stephen Kelly, the visiting pair finished marginally ahead. At this point the players broke for lunch, which had been organized by Stella, the MTRC manager, in the Club dining room.
After lunch Roland Budd of the IRTA took on Jamie Bebb of the MTRC, and this time the handicap arrangement made for a closely contested match, with play concluding at one set all: 4–6, 6–3. Stephen Kelly, the least experienced of the Irish players, was then outclassed by Manchester's Baron Isherwood, losing in straight sets. The afternoon continued with more doubles involving both Irish and Manchester players, and pairings were periodically rotated. In the evening the IRTA contingent was joined for dinner by Richard Clitherow, one of the MTRC doubles players of the afternoon, whose local knowledge proved invaluable in finding a restaurant on what was a busy Saturday night. The evening was brought to a close with a short stroll through the streets of Manchester, and the players retired for a solid rest before an early(ish) start the next day.
Sunday saw the IRTA on court shortly before 10 o'clock, and the morning was spent mainly at doubles, with the visiting players capitalizing on the chance to work at particular aspects of their game. Play continued until lunch, again at the Club, after which the IRTA group called in for a bit of culture to the recently refurbished and extended John Rylands Library. On then to the airport in time to see the Irish rugby team crash out of the World Cup, losing to Argentina in the final pool match, before flying back to Dublin.
Rugby aside, the weekend was enjoyed by all. Many thanks are extended to those involved on the MTRC side for welcoming us once again, particularly the pro, Steve; Stella, the manager; and the various members who turned out in the course of the weekend to play against the IRTA.
Photographs courtesy David Lowry.