Aberconway Cup 2016: New Management, Same Result

Chris Hughes reports:

19/04/16: There were lots of firsts at the annual Fathers and Sons competition this year. Most notably, a legend of the game, Mike Fenn, had decided (potentially foolishly) to pass the baton of organising the competition over to a disorganised 20 something year old who still struggles to get out of bed in the morning and hold down a job. Gareth saw this talent in there somewhere, though, and quickly gave me a ‘job for life’ and with very little choice in the matter I think I accepted.

There was also, for the first time, an actual plate to be presented to the plate competition winners, aptly named after Mike Fenn and kindly donated by the Eton Fives Association.

We had 14 pairs play this year, with some notable regulars obviously put off by the change in tournament management, but we had an array of other less fussy regulars and first timers and pairs that hadn’t played for some time. As usual, the weather was brilliant and the groups were played in high spirit with lots of laughter, good natured sportsmanship and the usual high percentage of the vintage crop taking a tumble. The highlight of the group stages was in Group 3 – with the Husselbees and the Capstick-Dales playing an incredibly close game in which the Husselbees performed in their usual consistent unrelenting way. The level of fives was unbelievable for a group stage match in this competition

Howard and Gwydion Wiseman also showed real promise as a partnership throughout the group stages, and Gwydion looks liketo be cut from the same cloth as the ever classy Howard. Gwydion’s left hand in particular shows how good he will be. However, the Wisemans didn’t get through the group of death as a very spirited performance from the Capstick-Dales just nipped them to the second qualifying spot with the ever consistent Husselbees coming top.

Groups 1 and 2 went with the seeding, with Team Hughes and Team Williams qualifying. Both pairs were encouraged to see how strong the pairs who entered were. In particular Tom and David McCahon showed some real class in their performance. Similarly, the Christies looked very strong and there were good performances from the Turnbull, Hoskins, Cox, Cooley, Platt and Leigh-Pemberton families. The future is bright for the competition with pairs like these playing!

All the pairs who didn’t get through to the semi-finals entered into the plate, and this ended up being an incredibly hard-fought competition. The experience of T Walters senior and the seemingly never fading class of T Walters Junior saw them top their group. The Wisemans came out on top of their group which resulted in a Walters vs Wiseman final. I was lucky enough to watch the final – along with a large crowd. T Junior showed his class on numerous occasions and showed what a player he still is. In typical Wiseman fashion they found a way to stay in the rallies, get all the cuts back and show killer instinct when it mattered. With T Senior having lost a pint of blood through an earlier tumble and Gwydion stepping up in a highly skilled match, the Wisemans ended up winners of the inaugural Mike Fenn Plate competition. I suspect it is only a matter of time before Howard and Gwydion start taking over the main competition. A massive thank you for everyone who played in the plate competition (This was definitely the highlight of the day for me.)

Some clever seeding and tampering of the groups meant that the two pairs that emerged victorious from the group of death were suitably knackered by the time the semi-finals came around. The experience of the Hughes and the Williams meant that even though the level of fives in the semi-finals was high, the scorelines were not representative of this. The Williams beat the Husselbees 2-0 and the Hughes beat the Capstick-Dales 2-0.

The Final saw Team Hughes and Team Williams battle for the title once again. During both previous final meetings between these two teams, the two younger players had shown what fine athletic specimens they are by spending half the match cramping! Fortunately, we were spared this sight this year.

The final was fast and full of volleying, expert returning by Grant, and Mike looking less and less eloquent but just as potent as he always has been coupled with a knowledge of the game that is second to none. There was a close start to the first game with the score at 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 for an age, before a couple of decent hands from Chris and Mike meant the Hughes got to 10-3 relatively quickly. If anyone has ever seen Grant and Guy play before you will know that until the game is over the score means absolutely nothing – and as usual they fought back, forcing a couple of mistakes from the Hughes and Grant digging in brilliantly on top step. Eventually however, the Hughes took the first set 12-7.

The second game was of a slightly different tone, with Guy obviously struggling from a leg injury. Furthermore, having just returned from three weeks of holiday in South America, followed by a gruelling football match on Saturday, unfortunately his leg deteriorated in the second set (thus answering the Hughes’ prayers for matters not to go to three games!). Whilst there were pockets of good fives, the Hughes made fewer mistakes and managed to find their length and line, and ran out winners by 12-5 in the second and final game. So, once again there had been injury in the final, and as usual it was one of the sons that suffered - a persistent irony in the competition I have grown to love.

The Hughes ended up victorious and completing their 7th Fathers and Sons win, a feat that has never been achieved by the same father and son pairing.

EFA Vice-Chairman Ronald Pattison very kindly presented the trophies to the winning teams, and was particularly honoured to be presenting the Mike Fenn Plate for the very first time. There are whispers that Ronald may even enter next year!

There was one major absentee on the day - Mike Fenn - and without him, there was definitely something missing. We all wish him the very best, and in the same vein that Gareth offered me the organising job of the competition, I have pencilled Mike in to present the trophies next year.

On behalf of every pair that has played in the competition over your tenure – thank you!

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