Report by LAUREN SELBY, Essex coach and Harrow Cup organiser

Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk met for a battle of the counties at Ipswich Sports Club on Sunday, an annual event organised by Off The Wall Squash for the prestigious Harrow Cup.

The event originally started over 10 years ago by Paul Selby, when he was the Regional Coach. Paul wanted to introduce a competition between the local counties offering youngsters a great chance to play as a team and represent their county.

I re-introduced the event last year when she organised the showdown at Martlesham, where Essex took the title. Harrow have supported the event for the last two years offering the winning county T-shirt sponsorship for all their teams for the following season.

On Sunday, Essex bombarded the age categories with two teams in each age group, a good indicator of the depth of junior squash in the county. The U13 and U15 events were run as a team event, each team consisting of 3 boys and 2 girls. In the U13 category the opposition were strong, Suffolk took the winning position with the Essex A team coming a close second.

The Essex B team finished 3rd in front of Cambridgeshire. Fantastic debut performances from Hattie Callen, Poppy Smee-Hotene and Libby Connor. All the girls have only been playing for 9 months and put up a great fight in all their matches.

In the U15 event Essex romped home with the title. Haydon Smith, Clayton Hunt, Charlie Martin, India Webb and Piper Tatum dominated proceedings beating Cambridgeshire by a substantial margin. All the players have been working hard in the past few months and their training paid off.

 The U11 and U17 events were reformatted due to the low number of entries. These categories were run as individual events but the overall finishing positions would add points to their counties’ total.

The U11’s turned out to be a magical event, some future superstars on show and some incredible matches. All matches were 1 game to 15 points allowing for some quick fire rallies. The boys’ event showcased Essex’s up and coming talent. Michael Tallentire went into the day as the number one seed and remained undefeated all day beating fellow Lexden player Max Hyde in the final. It must be noted that Essex’s youngest player on the day, Alex Banhidai (just turned 8) played some superb squash…I’ve got a feeling he might find his own in years to come.

In the girl’s even,t Essex fielded three debut players Hannah Morley, Aliza Sheikh and Rosie Mortimer. All the girls fought hard and despite the gruelling schedule kept going to the bitter end. The U11 star of the day was Mikayla Mann from Harwich. Mikayla stayed undefeated and took the title beating Suffolk’s Hatti Knight on overall points. The Harwich lass has improved dramatically since last year, her impressive serve and court awareness too its toll on the other competitiors.

The U17 boys’ was extremely strong from head to toe. The Essex contingent were always going to find it tough with Suffolk’s Ben Turmel in the draw. Aaron Allpress and Joe Blackmur found themselves fighting it out for 3rd and 4th place, Aaron narrowly winning the game with some sublime volleying.

Alice Green lead Essex’s challenge in the U17 girls but Essex were against facing another talented Turmel from Suffolk. Lucy Turmel was too strong and took the girls crown. Alice, aged 13, came 2nd in the event demonstrating her fine form after her recent tournament wins. Collette Whittington performed well and finished in 3rd place, winning some well deserved points for Essex.

It was a waiting game to find out which county had won the overall prize. Andrew Hewes used his accountancy skills to quickly add up the scores! Essex won the overall prize beating Suffolk by over 50 points! The Essex B teams came a close 3rd ahead of Cambridgeshire, a fantastic effort!

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend for all who took part! Everyone played their hearts out and were a credit to the county. Things are looking promising in the county, the committee are full of passionate and driven individuals and the coaches are working hard to produce the juniors.

Essex are certainly taking the reins in terms of their junior development programme and the current batch of players are improving dramatically! The future is bright, the future is Essex Junior Squash.