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Monday 27th August 2012 ko 6.15pm

Mid-Wales League Division One

DYFFRYN BANW 2 (Molloy 6 G Lewis 33)

BUILTH WELLS 3 (J Williams 14 C Jones 16 Morgan 23)

Att 181

Entry/Programme Hop Ticket

Badge £3

We’d got a sneak preview of Cae Morfa on the way out to Dolgellau, and the one thing that was clear is that if the rain didn’t stop, a lot of us were going to get wet! Just a small lorry stand, popular around here, and insufficient for a large crowd.

Dyffryn Banw is a group of houses next door to the village of Llangadfan, in Powys. The river Vynwy runs behind the ground, eventually feeding the lake of the same name near the border with England. The village is home to St Cadfan’s, a medieval church whose original features have been obscured by a 19th century restoration. The church was originally said to have been established by Saint Cadfan somewhere between 510 and 515, shortly before he departed and founded a monastery on Bardsey Island where he served as its abbot from 516–542. These days there’s a pub, which many hoppers used as part hostelry, part shelter before the game, and the primary school that the club use for changing.

Even after the event I do wonder whether some hoppers saw Cae Morfa, and immediately assumed they’d already done the ground, and made for home. The club used to play on a pitch behind the school, but moved down, and across the road a couple of years ago. To make things worse the old ground was called Cae Morfa too….

On arrival I got the distinct impression the club hadn’t read their briefing notes. They’d charged a young boy with counting the crowd with a clicker. A minor issue but when counting a crowd we want one count, on one game on a Hellenic hop, we got three counts, all different! More pressing was when I asked where they intended to put up the line-ups. The response of “Don’t worry, they’re in the programme,” again shows they hadn’t done their homework, so I grabbed lifts to the school and back courtesy of Dave Jolly, and Barry and Linda Neighbour. Thanks to them I avoided a soaking!

The trip proved to be interesting; it was easy enough to get the sheets from the referee and I found a classroom that had been co-opted for use as a dressing room to copy the information across. No showers, and barely any privacy for the players, and with the absence of either power or water I began to wonder how they were allowed to play in the top tier of the league with these facilities. Still, once the teams entered the field of play, everything slotted into place.

The game set off at the frantic pace we’d come to expect on this hop. Banw took the lead early yet at only the 23rd minute they found themselves 3-1 down. They pulled one goal back before half time through Guto Lewis, but sadly that proved to be the end of the scoring. Builth tightened up noticeably in the second half, and try as they might Banw couldn’t make this half any more than a virtual copy of the second half at Welshpool earlier in the day.

I didn’t mind, as I’d found somewhere to shelter! No one could work out why the home bench weren’t using their dugout, despite the appalling weather. “Welsh Football” editor David Collins and Martin Bamforth had set up camp in it, and after doing the crowd count I joined them! One hopper even brought us cups of tea at half-time! It was a most convivial way to finish a hop.

As we left Cae Morfa, a club official took Chris Berezai to one side, to report that a hopper had tried to pressure the young lad with the clicker to give him a discount on entry. Quite why he thought he was worthy of paying less than everyone else is a mystery to me, but we know who it was, and our cards are now marked. It won’t happen again, and I’m pleased to report that the young man stood his ground, and the hopper paid full price. Obviously he’d read the briefing notes!

From there it was a case of heading back to Welshpool, passing the steam railway on the way, that seemed an eternity earlier, before organising a collection for Clive and Alan, our two drivers/heroes. It was then a case of organising those heading south on to one coach, allowing Alan to head back to Shrewsbury, before thanking everyone for coming then heading for home. As ever I allowed myself to comment to Chris, “I think we managed it again.”

There are of course so many people who deserve our thanks. Alan and Clive on the coaches were new to all this, but fitted in like old-hands. Having a coach allows hoppers without cars to attend games, and at Dyffryn Banw around 40% of the crowd arrived by one of our coaches. Thanks also to hoppers Graeme and Terry for helping with ferrying, and helping one hopper who obviously had difficulties. All our landlords, for cooking umpteen breakfasts all at the same time, including Cheryl at the Dolforwyn Hall who seemed genuinely sad to see us go. I will miss her hotel, and the evenings spent having a beer and a chat in the lounge. Thanks to Phil Woosnam, and Paul Worts at the Mid Wales and Mid Wales South Leagues respectively, it is always a real bonus to have the league officials supporting their hop and I think Phil and his family particularly enjoyed the steam train ride!

Finaly, thanks also to all the clubs, who without exception were a joy to meet and work with, and having now had emails back from some, made a healthy profit too. One club made £1900; that’s why we do what we do.

Hopefully we’ll see you on the 22nd September for the North Berkshire Hop. Advance tickets, at a discount from groundhopuk@yahoo.com.