Alan Barber Cup Final: 14 Up for the Olavians
Richard Barber reports:
27/02/17: The final of the Alan Barber Cup, the EFA’s premier interschool trophy, was played at Eton on 26th February between the now traditional finalists, the Old Olavians and the Old Salopians.
The competition, founded in 1965 by Alan Barber, then President of the EFA, and won in its inaugural year by the Old Edwardians, was first won by the Olavians in 1971; in the 21st century they have won it 17 times with only one break, in 2003, when it was won by the Old Salopians. The sense of rivalry between the two schools can be gleaned from the fact that the Salopians have reached the final 22 times, winning on three occasions, while the Olavians and the Salopians have contested seven of the last eight finals.
It would have been difficult to witness the game of Eton fives played to a higher standard across all three courts than the feast of fives provided by these outstanding players on Sunday afternoon.
In the first court James Toop and Matt Wiseman, multiple Kinnaird winners and finalists, faced Ed Taylor and Ian Hutchinson in a match played at a tremendous pace with rallies at times of a length and vigour that defied belief. In the end the greater accuracy of James and Matt proved too strong for the determination of Ed and Ian but the scoreline of 3-0 does not begin to do justice to the excitement of the game and the skill of all four players in raising the game to such heights and producing a feast of fives at its very best.
In the second court Seb Cooley and Howard Wiseman, also with countless Kinnaird winners’ cups between them, were a formidable pair for Chris Hughes and Henry Lewis to take on, but the track record of their opponents did not faze the more youthful Salopians for a moment. They were ‘into’ every rally and there were even moments when one or two rare mistakes were forced upon the Olavians. But the gravity-defying agility of Seb and his crisp cutting and hitting to an impeccable length, combining with the ever-reliable support from Howard, proved too strong for them. It was a riveting match to watch but after an exhausting tussle the Olavians again emerged winners 3-0.
In the third court former National Schools’ Champions George Thomason and Tom Cox faced Dave Mew, a former Kinnaird semi-finalist, and Tony Barker who recently played first pair for Cambridge. The Olavians took the first game 12-9, but George and Tom fought back magnificently in the next three games to take the match 3-1 as the sun set, a huge credit to their skill and determination.
So once again, to the acclaim of all, the Olavians, with their unique brand of skill and athleticism, regained the Trophy for the 18th time in total and for the 14th time in succession. They still have far to go to match the Old Cholmeleians' 23 wins in total, though only one more to equal the Cholms’ 15 wins in succession between 1977-91. The Olavians’ firepower does not seem to waver, with their ability to put out a national champion or semi-finalist on all three courts – but the now more youthful Salopians will be hunting them down relentlessly. What an enticing prospect future years will bring!
Old Olavians beat Old Salopians 2-1
J.Toop & M.Wiseman beat E.Taylor & I.Hutchinson 3-0 (12-5, 12-4, 12-2)
S.Cooley & H.Wiseman beat C.Hughes & H.Lewis 3-0 (12-5, 12-4, 12-3)
T.Barker & D.Mew lost to T.Cox & G.Thomason 1-3 (12-9, 7-12, 7-12, 13-15)