By Seán Creedon
When the Caltex (Texaco) awards were inaugurated in 1958, 18-year-old Eleanor O’Neill was the Lawn Tennis winner, the only female to be honoured that year. Eleanor is a native of Laytown, in County Meath, but has been living in Ranelagh in South Dublin for over 50 years.
Eleanor’s father Hugh O’Neill was from a GAA family in Monaghan and her mother, Delia Moclair, who was from Mayo, was a useful golfer and sister of Mayo footballer Paddy Moclair, who won an All-Ireland senior football medal with Mayo in 1936.
‘‘My father was a Civil Engineer and he had worked abroad in places Nigeria before coming home to work in Local Government.
“My mother was a Domestic Science teacher, but did not work outside of the home until my father died in 1958.
‘‘My father and mother didn’t want their young children exposed to the new cinema in Laytown so my father urged my mother to buy two tennis racquets for me and my brother Patrick and sent us to play in Bettystown.’’
In Bettystown, Mrs Duffner and Mrs Gray ran Junior tournaments.
Eleanor showed great talent and her parents arranged for her to be coached in Elm Park in Dublin by Mr. Kelly. Then Joe Callan, an American golden gloves boxer, arranged for her to play at Templeogue Tennis club.
‘‘Every Saturday I had a lesson from Mr. Kelly and on Sunday after lunch we would get into our car and drive to Templeogue Tennis club.