Using the crowd’s energy

by Stephen Findlater

SWORDS LTC’s James Cluskey is hoping a new “crowdfunding” concept can help propel his bid for a spot at Wimbledon this summer.

Having produced a strong performance in Belarus in the Davis Cup last week, Cluskey was straight back on tour this week, progressing through the first round of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Bergamo, Italy on Monday with a straight sets win, in conjunction with Fabrice Martin, seeing off Marco Cecchinato and Damir Dzumhur.

Once this tournament is finished, he is hopeful of playing in a tournament in Kazakhstan while also taking in another in Asia in the next fortnight.

It is an expensive business and one which leaves the Swords’ man scrambling for finance. Currently number 158 in the world doubles ranks, he is on the borderline for qualification for Wimbledon and so needs to keep touring to put himself in the frame.

He recently received some unexpected help from the Irish Sports Council but, nonetheless, he is keen to find ways to help him to continue accumulating world ranking points.

As such, he has linked up with Pledgesports.org, a new initiative that has given a portal for companies, fans and friends to donate toward nine top athletes respective campaigns.

Also on the list is Aer Lingus and Olympic swimmer Barry Murphy and Cluskey says that “it is a really good opportunity for a lot of Irish athletes to get some support”.

“Obviously, funding is not easy and it is tough to keep going and this allows either people or companies to come in and have an impact on your career. For me, it’s to keep travelling and push for Wimbledon.

“[Even with Sports Council funding] I’m still short financially so need to find ways to make up the shortfall. I have been coaching clinics in Dublin with Conor Niland and I will be working hard on this to raise funds to keep travelling.

“The more tournaments and sometimes the further I can go to find a better schedule, having a bit of security there will help me break the top 100 in the world and play Wimbledon.

Having such financial concerns, Cluskey believes, has been a burden in the past.

“I went to Johannesburg last year and lost first round. One of the reasons I think I lost was I put more pressure on myself because of the cost of getting there. Having more money would help me get to those tournaments that I want to play so I can make my decisions number one for tennis rather than other reasons.

“I am not a big fan of being negative about how difficult it can be. At the same time, no one is forcing me to play tennis. But I am 150 in the world and am going in the right direction and really close to Wimbledon. It would be a really big moment for tennis, like when Conor Niland played.”

Currently, Pledge Sports are trying to get commercial sponsors on board as well as fans and the general public. They are already talking to a few brands on Cluskey’s behalf and tennis fans are encouraged to support the initiative.

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