WITH the start of tournament tennis across the country underway, Visually Impaired tennis was no different and took to the indoor court facility in Shankill, Dublin last Sunday morning.
With funding from the HSE and Tennis Ireland (TI) players from across the country gathered together for a day in "Celebration of Visually Impaired tennis."
Not even the blustery wind and sub zero temperature could put a stop to the determined, driven players who had the choice of competing in the competitive or the social event run expertly by Annemarie Breen and Wesley O'Brien.
Kicking off at 10 am. and running through until early evening, the courts were kept busy with a constant flow of eager players.
Making the journey in a generously sponsored mini bus by Cork company Stryker were five members of the Ballinlough based Visually Impaired (VI) group.
Along with a coach on hand and assistants Reídín Kelleher and Mark O'Neill, the group participated in an on court mix of drills and point play. Playing for the first time outside of the coaching sessions was a huge step for all but meeting other players of different abilities was an experience enough to whet the appetite of the Cork crew and leave them wanting more!
For those not in the know, VI tennis is an international event whose popularity is growing nationwide.
Having started in 2015, programs now take place in nearly ten locations nationwide, including two in Munster.
All programs are run as indoor sessions except Cork, which is based out of Ballinlough LTC and relies on the weather Gods to play ball!
Rules allowing numerous bounces of the ball depending on the visual ability of the player and bells inside the balls are truly ingenious and should be witnessed to be fully appreciated.
Other than slight modifications to the scoring system, all else is as close to "real" tennis as possible. Raised lines at shorter distances from the net make the game more achievable for the players but most certainly do not take away from the level of competitiveness.
Sundays celebration of the development of the game is an excellent example of the growth and progression of the TI Enjoy Tennis program. Tennis Ireland President John Ryan was on hand showing his support and said: "it was my first time seeing how the game works live.
"What struck me most was the passion the players had for tennis. Their commitment and talent /skill set is inspiring."
Easter came early to all the players with eggs sponsored kindly by the Supervalu Head office Cork and Lir Chocolates.
B1-4 event winners Stuart Haxell, Andrea Hope, Babs Weiberg and Doris Finley played tirelessly for the day and with the Munster contingent getting to grips with the competitive side of the game, I feel their titles could be up for grabs next year.