2004 Aberconway Cup

Mike Fenn reports:

The Fourteenth Championship took place at Eton College on a miserable windy and rainy day much to the chagrin of the organiser and few spectators brave enough to combat the elements. That said the inclement weather did not spoil the enjoyment of those on court, all matches being played in excellent spirits and to a very high standard.

The entry included two ladies, Teresa Dunbar and Emmeline Cooper, the latter entering for the first time. Other newcomers included Tim and Jonathan Best, Peter and Rex Worth, Trevor and Charles Bailey and Dan Pitts. Those 'fathers' partnering a different offspring for the first time were Teresa Dunbar with son Tom, David Cooper with daughter Emmeline and Jim Pitts with son Dan.

It was good to see the return of former Champions Graham and Peter Dunbar following a three year absence; Tom Dunbar, four times winner and current Kinnaird title holder; Kinnaird finalist Chris Cooley; John Pitts after a three year absence; and George and Jonathan Nosworthy after a two year gap.

Groups

From an organisational point of view fifteen pairs, out of a potential thirty, is not an ideal number as was to be discovered as the events of the day unfolded. The pairs were divided into three groups of four and one of three. Each played three games, the three pair group setting at fourteen and the others at eleven. The Dunbars (Graham & Peter); the Walters (Tony & Jake); the Hornes (Christopher & Richard); and the Worths (Peter & Rex) were seeded 1-4 respectively, with each group arranged to known strengths, age, and club, winners to progress to the semi-finals.

The four pair group matches went much as expected with the first, second and fourth seeds winning comfortably through to the semi-finals. In Group 1 newcomers Tim and Jonathan Best did well to finish second winning two of their three matches with Colin and Steve Spurrell defeating Andrew and William Betts into third place. In Group 2 the new pairing of the Worths lived up to their billing as fourth seeds and dominated the group. Martin and Jonathan Lindsay won two matches, with George and Richard Nosworthy winning one and nudging Jim and Dan Pitts into fourth place. Winners of Group 4 were Tony and Jake Walters but not before they had been a given a run for their money by second placed Teresa and Tom Dunbar. David and Emmeline Cooper recorded a win against newcomers Trevor and Charles Bailey to take third position.

The Group 3 pairings of three very evenly matched pairs regrettably resulted in long delays with one match result not decided until after lunch and after the completion of the first semi-final! A marathon one and three quarter hour match between Christopher and Richard Horne and Richard and Julian Black ended in defeat for the Blacks 14-15, 15-13, 10-12, the Blacks also losing to John and Chris Cooley in another close encounter 11-12, 12-8, 6-12. The organiser watched the last match between the Cooleys and Hornes with trepidation wondering whether or not the group winners would need to be decided by games or points won or lost especially after a close first game which the Cooleys took 12-11. Fortunately the jury was not required as the Cooleys ran out winners by taking the second game to four, thus securing the last semi-final place to the detriment of the Hornes, the third seeds.

Semi-finals

Due to the lateness of the morning play the semi-final between the Dunbars and Worths was over before the return of the organiser from lunch! However it was reported that the Worths gave good account of themselves and were certainly more deserving than is reflected in the scoreline. In the second they took an early lead with good all round play from both pairs before the Dunbars took charge running out winners 12-3, 12-4.

In the second semi-final the steady play of Walters senior and the sharp attacking play of son Jake was too much for the Cooleys. The many long rallies were appreciated by the few spectators but the experience of the Walters was too great for Kinnaird finalist Chris and his less experienced father, the Cooleys going down 3-12, 3-12. It was good to see the enormous strides made by John Cooley in improving his all round game in recent years and his semi-final placing was well deserved.

Final

And so to the final, a battle of the giants with each father playing with their second son. Tony and Jake Walters, Cup holders, against the year 2000 Champions Graham and Peter Dunbar. Both pairs elected to play the best of five games normal match setting. The weather was pretty foul for the spectators and it was a shame that more were not able to watch what turned out to be classic and one of the best and closest finals to date. The match was played at a very fast tempo particularly by the youngsters ably supported particularly in the back court by the Dads. The crisp volleying and attacking play throughout was on a par with the best of matches and many of the rallies and winning shots were awesome. The first game was neck and neck with first the Dunbars in the lead, then the Walters levelling at 6-6 before taking the lead 8-6 only to be outscored once again with the Dunbars taking the first game 12-9. The second followed a similar pattern with this time the Walters taking an early lead only to be pegged back to 5-5 and then 7-7 before the Dunbars stepped up a gear to take it 12-7. In the third the Walters got off to a disastrous start going 0-5 down in the first hand. This poor start was too big a handicap to overcome even though from that point on they scored nine points to the Dunbars seven going down 9-12.

An enthralling match in which the took the Cup for the sixth time out of six finals. A small consolation for the Walters is that Tony has played in one more final than Graham!

The day, including the lunch at the Watermans Arms, was much enjoyed by all pairs. Chris Horne kindly presented the Cup to the winners at the relatively late hour of 6.15pm.

Results

Group 1

G & P Dunbar won 3, lost 0

T & G Best won 2, lost 1

C & S Spurrell won 1, lost 2

A & W Betts won 0, lost 3

Group 2

P & R Worth won 3, lost 0

M & J Lindsay won 2, lost 1

G & J Nosworthy won 1, lost 2

J & D Pitts won 0, lost 3

Group 3

J & C Cooley won 2, lost 0

C & R Horne won 1, lost 1

R & J Black won 0, lost 2

Group 4

A & J Walters won 3, lost 0

T & T Dunbar won 2, lost 1

D & E Cooper won 1, lost 2

T & C Bailey won 0, lost 3

Semi-finals

G & P Dunbar beat P & R Worth 2-0 (12-3, 12-4)

A & J Walters beat J & C Cooley 2-0 (12-3, 12-3)

Final

G & P Dunbar beat A & J Walters 3-0 (12-9, 12-7, 12-9)