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Monday, 09 March 2015 16:41


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It's the eagerly anticipated weekend of the Ceredigion Groundhop, and groundhoppers are assembling from all over Britain to head into west Wales. For the last couple of years, Groundhop UK have organised tours of Ceredigion League grounds, and this March we are due to complete the set. 

On the way, for those staying over Friday night in Carmarthen, the coach picks up in Cardiff late on Friday afternoon before heading to Briton Ferry for a pre-groundhop 'appetiser'.

 FRIDAY 6th MARCH: Old Road, a chilly, dry evening
BRITON FERRY LLANSAWEL 3 GARDEN VILLAGE 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 1)

After a bonus stop in the form of a 20-minute refreshment stop at "the best back-street pub in Wales" (Borough Arms, Neath), we arrive at the Old Road ground an hour before kick off. In the clubhouse, we hear a bit of history of the club (pre- and post-merger) and then head out into a fine, clear evening to watch Briton Ferry Llansawel and Swansea rivals Garden Village, who come here on the back of a fine win over Cardiff Met. But tonight they can't reproduce that form and find an impressive Ferry side too strong on the night. It ends 3-0, a fair reflection of the game.

Llanddewi Playing Fields, dry, cool breeze.
DEWI STARS 6 ST DAVID'S UNIVERSITY COLLEGE 1 (Ceredigion League Div 2)  (Photo above)
The Saturday hop schedule gets underway with a 10.15 kick off in Llanddewi Brefi: challenging for us, let alone the poor students of Lampeter who have to get here and play at such an unsocial hour. The coach gets us to the pretty village of Little Britain 'fame' well before kick off time - it's a chilly start but the sun is breaking through and the weathermen's promises of a taste of spring re believable. The ground is a delight, with a steep slope corner to corner, and a small stand on the half-way line; around the venue there are village-scape and rural views. The hosts are rewarded for their efforts with an attendance of 188.
The opening half an hour of the match is not good for the visiting students: understandably slow to get going, they soon find themselves four goals down despite playing down the slope. Steffan Owens is their nemesis with all four, and they only pull one goal back just before the interval. The second half is less difficult, as the Stars only add a couple more goals to make the final score 6-1.
Felinfach Playing Fields, overcast and cold.

FELINFACH 1 BARGOD RANGERS 1 (Ceredigion League Div 2)
A short journey west brings us to Felinfach for a lunchtime kick off. The weather was supposed to have warmed up by now into a nice spring day, but this bit of west Wales remains stuck in winter, with a bitter wind-chill making the village playing fields an uncomfortably exposed venue. A nice bowl of cawl helps a little, but it's impossible to get a sheltered position to watch the match. Spectating is also complicated by the unique contours of the pitch, which rises to a distinct 'crown' in the centre, so that from either touchline, players on the other side of the pitch are visible only from the waist upwards. There is a minor crisis before kick-off - the appointed referee has mis-read the kick off time and isn't here - but disaster is averted by a league official who steps in for the first half. The 245 spectators see Bargod take an early lead, but Felinfach equalise in the second half and the game finishes all square.

Cae'r Lli, sunny but strong see breeze
ABERAERON 1 PENRHYNCOCH 2 (Spar Mid Wales Division One)

Aberaeron upload

After Felinfach, we head towards the nearby coastal town of Aberaeron, where it's still chilly, but a bit brighter. The Cae'r Lli ground is extremely close to the sea, with open views to the hills behind the town, and the only shelter in the form of the tiny stand isn't going to accommodate the 240 spectators present. The home club has a souvenir table in the back of the stand, and a club scarf is just what's needed today.
This afternoon's match is three divisions higher than the morning entertainment, and Penrhyncoch in particular look very organised and capable. Their early pressure brings a fine opening goal from Aiden Nyhus, a looping header at the far post, then a volley from Dylan James doubles the lead. After that Aberaeron come more into the game, pulling a goal back just before half time through Daniel James, and that proves to be the end of the scoring. I elect to spend the second half from the comfort of the stand, driven there by the freshening wind and late afternoon temperature. After all, we've still got another game to come this evening.... Before leaving Aberaeron, those of us who've heard the forecast for tomorrow snap up club umbrellas for a fiver.

Parc Emlyn: Cool, dry evening
NEWCASTLE EMLYN 2 NEW QUAY 0 (Ceredigion League Div 1)
Back inland, and back to the Ceredigion League. Newcastle Emlyn's extremely impressive floodlit Parc Emlyn home is our final stop on a marathon day of football, and the host club has done well to provide plenty of refreshment options in and around their clubhouse - enough in fact to persuade me and others not to wander off in search of a warm pub or restaurant in the town centre. It's an entertaining game between two of Ceredigion's top sides, and Emlyn prevail 2-0 to keep their title hopes alive.

Pencader Park: heavy rain

pencader upload

By Sunday morning the weather has changed: the cold wind has dropped, but it's damp. Early drizzle turns to heavy rain by the time we get to Pencader and it's clear the Aberaeron umbrella is going to be £5 very well spent. Before the game, most people congregate in the fine pavilion, which is in fact officially opened while we're there. But at 11.00 there's no alternative but to venture out. A few can shelter under the very low section of cover on the bank above the pitch, but most have to brave the rain and the mud underfoot. It becomes obvious that the pitch and surrounding areas are very wet indeed, and the decision to proceed has been based on the occasion as much as anything - for which the visiting hoppers are extremely grateful.

What unfolds for the following ninety minutes challenges notions of 'playability': with standing water in places, and the ball holding up in the far goalmouth especially, conventional wisdom would be that football can't really be effectively played in such conditions. Yet the ten goal thriller that we witness at Pencader Park belies such a view - and the ten goal result mostly from quality play rather than the conditions or errors induced by them. Ffostrasol take an early lead but Pencader assume control and are never behind again. Close to the end of the game the rain relents into fine drizzle but we're all pretty wet by now, not that anyone is complaining. This has been a memorable morning, for many reasons.

Cae Dandre: warm and sunny
LLANBOIDY 3 MAESGLAS 3 (Ceredigion League Div 1)

spring 2015 upload

A lengthy drive west brings us across the Pembrokeshire border to the remote, attractive little town/village of Llanboidy, its houses and buildings clustered on a hill, with the football field down in a dip below. We've been on the road for about an hour, but the seasons appear to have changed while we've been on the bus - it's a warm, sunny spring afternoon now.

The spacious hall at Cae Dandre contains trestle tables full of merchandise and displays as well as a selection of food from hog roast to home-made cakes. Llanboidy FC have truly risen to the occasion and what looked on paper like a potentially low-key end to the hop is anything but. There's a football match to come of course, and this brings together two teams without a single league point to their name this season (Maesglas had some but suffered a deduction). From the kick-off, it's hard to understand why these sides have such poor playing records, because a really entertaining game of football develops. Llanboidy take the lead from a corner, Maesglas draw level, then Llanboidy go 2-1 up with a fine low shot, and 3-1 when the vistors' defence is stretched. Jonathan James is the home hat-trick hero inside 34 minutes, but Maesglas reduce the deficit to 3-2 before half-time. The second half brings chances at both ends, with Llanboidy wasting opportunities to make the points safe, and the final action is a penalty to Maesglas which levels the scores at 3-3. Both clubs go away with a point, which is nice.

The end of another enjoyable groundhop, and indeed the end, for now, of visits to the Ceredigion League, as we've now ticked off every ground in the league. This league will be missed.

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