Friday, May 24, 2024

Irish team captain Conor Niland hails ‘world class’ facilities at UL for Davis Cup tie

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Irish Davis Cup team captain Conor Niland is hoping the crowd gets behind his team for the high-profile clash against Austria at University of Limerick this weekend.

The proud Limerick man hailed the “world class” tennis facility that has been specially constructed in the UL Sport Arena for the match this Saturday and Sunday.

A sold-out crowd of 2,400 people per day will see Niland’s team take on Austrian counterpart Jurgen Melzer’s charges in a feast of top-class tennis at the UL venue.

UL Provost Professor Shane Kilcommins paid a visit to the Arena this Wednesday to meet Conor and the Irish team ahead of the World Group 1 playoff tie.

“It is unbelievable, it looks like a full tour event here, the quality of the court is first class – it was the same court I think that they used for the Bille Jean King cup final in London in November and the seating arrangements, it looks like a top-class pro event, which is what this is. So it’s super exciting,” said Conor, who captains the team in the first home tie Ireland has hosted in nine years.

The former tennis professional, who played at Wimbledon and the US Open over a storied career, is hoping that the home supporters make their voices heard and get behind the team of players Simon Carr, Osgar O’hOisin, Michael Agwi and Conor Gannon.

“It is sold-out, 2,400 seats both days – so I really want to encourage people who have bought tickets to come out, get loud, the Davis Cup atmosphere is allowed to be a little bit more raucous than a tour event, and we are going to need the support and use the home advantage, so we are really excited. Hopefully everyone will get behind the lads.

“It is very special to be in Limerick, obviously I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be back in a tennis context in a long time, and to have it in such a world-class, purpose-built venue here in UL just feels like world class tennis in my home city, which is really special for me, so very excited.”

The tie will be the first staging of a Davis Cup match in Limerick in 35 years. Limerick Lawn Tennis Club was the venue for previous Davis Cup success in 1989, when the Irish team beat Senegal 4-1.

Kevin Quinn, CEO of Tennis Ireland, said there was “amazing excitement” around the event.

“It has been really building nicely from Monday when we got here – they cleaned out the UL Arena after another big event at the weekend, an amazing job by the team here to do that and to see the empty arena with the basketball courts compared to what is here now is just fantastic,” he said.

“The volunteers that came in to help with some of our staff to put the court together and to put down a performance Davis Cup court across the middle of this fantastic UL Sport Arena – there is a huge amount of logistics involved and it is just incredible. It is crystalising and you can see it now and it is palpable what the weekend is going to be like – just looking around, seeing the players, getting their feedback and they are loving the court, how everything is set up.

“The tie itself, let’s hope it’s a very local, very green, very loud and parochial crowd that we know there can be – we want them standing, bring their drums, we want green wigs, green everything – we want people hanging out of this place and making sure that the team really know the whole country is behind them.

“We are really banking on a great weekend, and we are really looking forward to being here in Limerick. The local hospitality, the welcome here has been fantastic, so we are really looking forward to a great weekend.”

Brian King, Director of UL Sport, explained the logistics behind staging the event in the Arena.

“There are months of hard work gone into this, between ourselves, Tennis Ireland and with the backing of the University, this is such a privilege to bring to Limerick after 35 years, we are really looking forward to it,” he explained.

“I can’t wait for people to come here at the weekend and see what we have witnessed in the practice sessions – we had the Irish team the last couple of days and now the Austrians are here, and it is truly top-class tennis we are going to be watching.

“As you can imagine, the arena is extremely busy, we had a massive weekend of concerts here and they finished up on Sunday night. Then we had big turnaround here to build the court, it was shipped in from Denmark and built on Monday – and we put an extra seating to go with the seating we already have to bring the capacity here to 2,400 for both Saturday and Sunday.

“There will be a brilliant atmosphere, we are encouraging the Irish supporters to come and make some noise,” he added.

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