Davis Cup Preview | Group III (Europe)
Ireland top seeds in Group B along with Albania, Armenia and Macedonia
By Stephen Higgins | 1 March 2016
The Irish Davis Cup team are in Talinn, Estonia this week for the Group III (Europe) round-robin contest.
After suffering relegation last July from Group II at the hands of South Africa, Ireland will need to finish top of their pool, and win a play-off, to return to the higher tier.
Ireland were drawn as top seeds in Group B along with Albania, Armenia and Macedonia. They will start against the former on Wednesday afternoon.
Non-playing captain Conor Niland is without Ireland's top-ranked player, James McGee, as the Castleknock man prepares to qualify for Indian Wells. James Cluskey retired at the end of last season.
The panel for the week comprises Sam Barry (ranked 359), Bjorn Thomson (1046), Peter Bothwell (1115) and David O'Hare (231 in doubles). It's the first Davis Cup tie for both Thomson and Bothwell, the eighth for Barry, and the fourth for doubles specialist O'Hare.
The senior members of the team have already collected silverware this season. Sam Barry was victorious at the Sunderland Future last month, and in January, David O'Hare captured a Futures doubles title in California with his partner Joe Salisbury.
Ireland are favourites for Group B as there is only one opposition player, Macedonia's Tomislav Jotovski at 676, ranked within the top 1,000. Three of Armenia's four players are unranked and Albania have no ranked players.
The competition gets markedly stiffer should the Irish progress from the pool.
Estonia's star player Jurgen Zopp is ranked 177 in the world, Moldova's Radu Albot sits at 145, and Cyprus' Marcos Baghdatis (39) just reached the final of Dubai.
Play will commence on Wednesday and finish this Saturday. Two sides will be promoted to Group II (Europe/Africa).