SPORT — 02 July 2014

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It is the one event the signals the official start of the summer.

The All England Tennis championships – simply Wimbledon to most of us – got underway last week.
It is two years since Ireland had a player in the most famous tennis tournament of them all.

But that does not mean the Irish have never made an impact on the world-renowned lawn court in south London.

During the Golden Age of Irish tennis in the 1890s and early 20th century, Ireland’s tennis legends racked up nine Wimbledon titles (four x men’s, one x ladies, two x men’s doubles and two x mixed doubles).

The most famous Wimbledon player of them all was John McEnroe, an American with Irish roots. The Irish in Britain made their mark on the tennis world too.

Conor Niland
The most recent Irish player to compete at Wimbledon is Birmingham-born Limerick man Conor Niland.
He played at Wimbledon four times between 2008 and 2011 but retired from professional tennis in 2012 as a result of a recuring hip injury. His father, Ray, played for the Mayo senior team, while his sister Gina is a former Irish Number One tennis player.

John Pisu Boland
Boland was a member of the famous Dublin-based bakery family and was the first ever Olympic tennis medalists for Great Britain and Ireland in 1896. He died at his London home on St Patrick’s Day in 1958.

Ernest Browne
Cheltenham-born Browne took part in the Wimbledon tournament between 1882 and 1885 and in his final year there reached the semi-final of the All-comers section. He won the Irish championship in 1882 and mixed doubles (1882, 1883). He also won titles at Scottish Championships between 1889 and 1891.

Manliff Goodbody
The Dubliner reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 1889 and 1893. He was also an international football player before he embarked on his tennis career. Other tennis success included reaching the final of The Queen’s Club Championship in 1895.

Willoughby Hamilton
Dubliner Hamilton won the Gentlemen’s Singles title at Wimbledon 1890 and became the first Irish tennis player to do so. The previous year, he won both the North England Championships and the Irish Championships. In the latter tournament he defeated the six time Wimbledon champion William Renshaw in the all-comers final. This made him one of the favorites for the 1889 Wimbledon title but he suffered a five set defeat in the semi-final. At this time, Hamilton was ranked by many as the best tennis player in the world.

Vere St Leger Goold
The Cork man won the 1879 Irish championship before being defeated by Reverend Jon Hartley (the only clergy man to win the famous tournament) at Wimbledon. He subsequently fell ill before retiring from the sport in 1883. He moved to London, began to drink heavily and married a French dressmaker called Marie Giraudin. He was later charged with the murder of another girlfriend in Marseilles.

Harold Mahony
He made his Wimbledon debut in 1890 but crashed out in the opening round and reached the semis in 1891 and 1892, and the final in 1893, but in each instance, he was beaten by fellow Irishman, Joshua Pim. Victory finally came his way in 1896 when he upstaged Wilfred Baddele his only Grand Slam title. He reached the final again in 1898 and made it to the semis in 1900, 1901 and 1902. He made his last Grand Slam appearance in June 1904 when knocked out in the third round. He was the last Irishman to win the Wimbledon championships.

Lena Rice
In May 1889, Rice rose to prominence when narrowly beaten in the Irish Championships by Blanche Bingle, the five time Wimbledon Champion – in the semi-final.

Later that year, Lena travelled to Wimbledon where she reached the final to play Blanche Bingley. After almost two hours on Centre Court the Irishwoman become the Wimbledon Champion of 1889. Lena returned to Ireland where she lost the Irish championships. A year later she succeeded in becoming the first Irish woman to win at Wimbledon and is also credited with inventing the forearm smash!

Joshua Pim
Pim, who was related to the family of the famous alcoholic drink often associated with Wimbledon, was born in Bray in 1869. His first tennis triumph was in 1890, when he won both the English and Irish doubles championships alongside the Dubliner Frank Stoker.

The following year and again in 1892 he reached the semi-finals, but lost on both occasions to an English player called Wilfred Baddeley. In 1893, Pim returned to Wimbledon and won both the single and the doubles (with Stoker) and followed this up with wins in 1894 and 1896.

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