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Sunday, 04 February 2018 17:19

Cup Football in the Mud - again

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SATURDAY 3rd FEBRUARY. Ynystawe Park, light showers.
Another of those Saturday mornings, watching the news of postponements and mulling over the options. I note a couple of postponements to the west and more or less give up on the idea of a day trip in that direction for a WWFA Cup tie in Swansea - until, that is, Ynystawe tweet that their game is actually on. Hasty preparations and a dash for the bus.

Getting through and out of Cardiff is challenging - it's a dreaded Six Nations match-day. Town is full of the rugby crowd - more cartoon-Welsh than a football crowd, all daffodil hats, Max Boyce buskers and Prince of Wales feathers. The train to Swansea is inevitably late, the knock-on effect of the surge in traffic through Central Station: not enough of a delay to constitute a disaster, but irritating nonetheless.

Saturday, 27 January 2018 20:59

A "Fairytale" of Dragons and Miners

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SATURDAY 27th JANUARY: USW Sports Campus, wet and mild.
The last sixteen of the Welsh Cup, always a day to savour, and ever since the draw was made back in December I have had just one destination today. Two south Wales valleys clubs, one from tier 3, one from tier 5, and one of them will qualify for the quarter-finals of the Welsh Cup.

Whilst I've been anticipating today, the weather has been a bit of a worry. Heavy rain this morning on top of already saturated ground brings a rash of postponements through the morning. I set off for Treforest early - half-expecting to arrive to news that the match referee has deemed the pitch unplayable and so leaving enough time to high-tail it down to Cyncoed for a later kick off. But on arrival, those fears are unfounded: the pitch is looking heavy but OK, although spectator areas are holding vast amounts of water. The game, it seems, is very much on.

Penydarren BGC's extraordinary winning run has drawn an increasing amount of attention and coverage. The FAW website ran a video feature on the Merthyr club this week and social media has been awash with messages of encouragement.

The most commonly-used description for Penydarren's exploits is "fairy-tale". A cliché, although we all understand the meaning. But today is no day for fairies: their little gossamer wings would soon get waterlogged in the persistent rain and the abundant mud at the USW Sport Park is not the best surface for tiny bare feet. No, today is a day for good old-fashioned cup football, football in the raw, and over 400 spectators have assembled expecting a real battle in the mud. Today's teams are the distinctly un-fairylike Dragons of Pontypridd and Miners of Penydarren.

Sunday, 14 January 2018 20:24

Long Distance

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SATURDAY 13th JANUARY: Abertillery Leisure Centre, cold and gloomy.

When I saw the draw for the Fifth Round of the FAW Trophy (my favourite domestic competition), I was delighted to see that it was national, rather than regionalised. In recent years, the competition had been regional until the last possible point, but that deprived clubs of one-off away-days in other parts of Wales, and deprived spectators of the inter-region ties that capture the imagination.

The only disappointing feature of the last sixteen draw was the shortage of games in south Wales. Most of our local clubs were drawn away, with just Abertillery in reasonable, January-travel range. Hence a journey up the Ebbw valley - not the easiest, as I'm wary of Gwent buses. Quite often it seems only locals actually know where they stop - and I remember waiting in the wrong place, in what looked like a bus station, on my last trip to Abertillery. Signage and visitor information is non-existent in these parts - I suppose they don't expect tourists.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 20:05

Two for the Price of One

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SATURDAY 9th DECEMBER. Pill Recreation Ground, dry and cold.
PILL 2 RHYMNEY 6 and DOCKS CONS 1 PENTWYNMAWR 1 after extra time (Gwent Amateur Cup)

Saturday morning arrives and I have no firm plan and no idea where I'm going. For various reasons, I haven't been able to give it much thought this week and doubted I'd be up to going far. Or anywhere, really. And then the forecast of snow added another layer of uncertainty, making me wonder if it would be one of those "3G only" days.

But Cardiff is merely a little frosty this morning (though the hills to the north of the city are white). There's a host of early morning tweets announcing matches off in north Wales, mid Wales and the valleys, but the Channel coast seems to have escaped. A few games on grass are on, and I notice a report that the pitch at Pill AFC is "perfect". I'd also noticed that there seems to be another match scheduled for Pill Rec. - another Gwent Amateur Cup game with Docks Cons (of the Newport & District League) the home club against Pentwynmawr of the Gwent County. Interest definitely piqued - I'm going to Newport.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 10:32

The Lower Mountain

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SATURDAY 18th NOVEMBER. Argoed Sports Ground, sunny and cold.

The risk of adverse weather generally puts me off long journeys in November, but with a decent forecast for north-east Wales, after a quiet week, I'm fairly confident in sticking to my original, tentative, choice from the Trophy 4th Round draw - a first-ever visit to Mynydd Isa, whose ground I missed out on when the previous club played Cymru Alliance football there, a decade ago.

The 1.30 kick off dictates an early start: in fact, to be safe, a VERY early start. There's enough slack in my schedule today, and enough alternative routings, not to worry about the inevitable disruptions on the trains. I make it to Wrexham in time for a connection to Buckley and a leisurely hour's stroll across town and up Pren Hill to Mynydd Isa. As the names imply, it's not all flat, but they do seem to be a tad modest with their names around here: on the way I passed Little Mountain, and now I'm at Mynydd Isa meaning 'Lower Mountain'.

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