The weekend of 19th, 20th, and 21st January saw the IRTA team up with the Dublin University Squash Rackets Club in the organisation of a joint outing to Oxford. In the course of the visit a dozen or so Dublin students were introduced to real tennis at the Merton College court, home of the Oxford University Tennis Club, and they, together with other IRTA members, enjoyed further opportunities for play on the Saturday and on the Sunday. The group led by David Lowry, Captain of DUSRC, and Roland Budd, member of DUSRC and prominent member of the IRTA, were fortunate to learn the basics of the game from the club professional Alan Oliver. After the rules had been explained (and somewhat grasped) and some shots practiced, the beginners were given the chance to test their skills in an informal doubles match. Everyone took to the game very well with a background in squash proving a useful advantage in the initial difficulty in the sport that is "getting the ball back". Most notably Robbie Woods who took the decision not to go for the dedans on a chase that was half a yard but instead to try and land his shot better than half a yard. He made the incredible shot and won his doubles match in the process.

Some of the players by the grille
Players by grille
The Oxford court, with unicorn grille decoration
Oxford court

Oxford has had a real tennis court since 1595 and there has been a court on the current site since 1798. Reflecting the resurgence in interest in the game in recent years, the OUTC clubhouse was completely rebuilt in 1997, while the court itself was refurbished in 2002, so the facilities are in excellent condition.

Introductory lesson
Introductory lesson

The Irish party was entertained on the Saturday evening to dinner in the monumental dining hall at Christ Church, just a short walk from the court. In the course of the weekend the IRTA / DUSRC group met representatives of the OUTC and of neighbouring clubs, including The Oratory and Hardwick House, as well as leading figures from the Ladies' Real Tennis Association, and Mick Dean of Radley College, a school not far from Oxford at which construction of a real tennis court is soon to commence.

The IRTA extends its thanks to the professionals at the OUTC, and in particular to Alan Oliver for his assistance in the organisation of the weekend and for his expert guidance during the introductory lesson. Thanks are also due, of course, to the squash clubs of the two universities, and especially to the committee and travelling members of the DUSRC for their embrace of the opportunity afforded by their visit to Oxford to try this remarkable game. The IRTA looks forward to further cooperation with the club and would encourage the new enthusiasts to hone their tennis skills on future IRTA trips.