Warburton Cup Final
Farnworth SC A 397
I always prefer to sit with the underdogs. There is a radiance often not seen by the general public, a suffused splendour that draws you in.
Boyzone – carrying the flag for Division Three – I witnessed in the qualifying rounds against Premier giants, Radcliffe CC. They have been on the road in this competition since October and have offered deep resistance when it has been required.
Tonight, it is the business-like Farnworth SC A who prowl opposite, armed with finer equipment and Division Two nous: John Hutchinson (96%) – their powerhouse and deceptive gladiator; Mick Murray (48%) – fanged wonder; Gillian ‘Move Your Feet’ Marsden (45%).
The Boyzone handicap is 128.5; 3.5 ‘throwaway’ points per set to cause a major cup upset. Main man, Jeremy Grimwood (58%) walks up to the table. He plays with his tongue permanently burrowing into his cheeks. Perhaps he doesn’t know it. Perhaps no one has ever told him. He knows now. He also knows that he’s not up against favoured foes George Berry and Geoffrey Yates.
3-11. Murray makes the perfect start. Grimwood, no.10 on his shorts, light blue Slazenger T-shirt, looks a little nervy. Maybe the fourteen-strong crowd has unsettled him.
Murray surprises me at times in that he rarely steps in for the smash. For a burly mauler, he often takes the genteel route of wearing down his opponent. Grimwood seems to pick on this and adds a masterful patience to his game. 8-11, 8-11: Two commendable sets from the Boyzone chief.
The final set falls away 7-11 after an initial 3-0 lead, but the total Grimwood points (26) leave Boyzone a mere four points off target. Murray’s Lonsdale joggers and blood-red T-shirt depart. It is a satisfactory opening.
Vincent Merritt (15%) enters the table tennis fairground. One suspects that there might be candy floss all over his face after this encounter with Hutchinson. Before tonight had begun, Boyzone joked upon seeing Hutchinson’s Swedish STIGA attire that such dress sense was threatening in itself, overwhelming in fact compared to the ordinary clothing and duster-like threads of the Division Three strugglers.
Such words make you warm to them. But Merritt – in barely-legal light grey T-shirt – duly accepts his beating: 5-11, 3-11, 1-11, 4-11. They are now twenty-one points off target and it is looking grim – not quite in the mould of last year’s classic between Heaton E and Hilton H.
Marsden joins the fray. I know all about this lady having beaten her 3-0 at home but then the reverse of that away. She hates good-length, simple chopped serves to her body and short drops over the net. But give her the channels and she’ll power you off.
Matthew Brown (52%), trademark burnt orange trainers and England shorts, starts well – hanging in there at 8-11 in the first set. 6-11, 9-11 and 4-11 follow – a total only Grimwood betters on the evening in his own battle against Marsden.
The overall gross score (203-397) – virtually two points for every one – suggests that Boyzone were really not at the races in this. Even with another Grimwood or Brown (each totalling 80) they would have been thirty short.
“Our scoring’s been better,” secretary, Mike Barnes jests. There is also talk at the end from Merritt of getting ‘Warburton Cup 2014 Finalists’ T-shirts printed for next season.
But then Farnworth’s Geoff Rushton – moustache like a streaking caterpillar – is a wise, old secretary who hires well. Already weighed down by the George Yates Trophy the previous evening, this one – the biggie – has him slip a smile.