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Tivoli Cup & Harris Squash Racquet Cups

Historical Images- Railway (Lawrence Collection R4420); Church - Stereo P. 1658; The Beach  (Lawrence Collection NS 2956). Pictures Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

By Tom Byrne

Squash Racquets, as it was played in Kilkee each summer, is a game peculiar to the area and the winners, senior and junior are in fact World Champions. Its nearest relations are handball and squash.

Circa 1850 a contractor named McNamara from Lahinch built the wall forming the base of the Squash Alleys as part of a post famine relief scheme. It was in that period that West Clare was in the worst grip of hunger and disease. Handball was played in the same spot during the First World War and sometime between 1918 and 1934 Squash Racquets were introduced simply by using a racquet instead of the hand.

The 'Famine Wall' at the present squash courts was plastered and painted and in July 1935, Captain J Wallace presented the 'Tivoli Cup' to be played for in July. It was a mixed doubles trophy and from 1935 - to the early 1950's the games were organised by William Stokes of Limerick and Mr. P Wallace of Ennis. From the 1950's onwards they were organised by Mr. Gavin of Limerick and from 1965 to the present date (with the exception of 1968) Roy Finucane, the writer has been in charge and John Egan in latter years.

The first winners were Miss M. O'Sullivan and a Brother Finbar. Sgt. J. Murphy won it three years running between 1939-1641. In 1945 the first Kilkee man, Brendan McGreen, partnered by a Mrs J. Dolan won the trophy. The cup then remained in Limerick hands until 1957 when Noel Ryan of Kilkee, partnered by Miss E. Foley, won it.

Four of the Harris brothers from Limerick have won the Tivoli Cup on different occasions, James 1943-1944, Ivan 1946, Richard 1948-1951 and Billy 1958. Richard, now the internationally known film star was the only person to win the cup four years in succession, a record that stands to the present day.

In 1961, Paul Costello and Helen Nolan of Kilkee won the title and it has since remained in Kilkee hands. Paul Costello has the distinction of being the only player to win the cup on seven different occasions, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1972, 1973 and 1974.

The Tivoli Cup was last played for in 1993. In 1997 a replica was commissioned by Dickie Harris and is available for future tournaments should some concerned individual take it upon themselves to organise one. The original cup is completely full with names of previous winners. It was presented to the local library so that it would be kept on view to the public as we feel it should be part of the history of Kilkee.

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