Sunday 25th August 2013 ko 18.15
Welsh Alliance Division One
LLANRWST UNITED 0
BODEDERN ATHLETIC 0
As organiser you love to see good decisions made without you having to prompt them. We were part of a huge convoy leaving Glan Conwy on the A470, and heading into Snowdonia, and I was day-dreaming on how the A470 eventually goes right past the University of Glamorgan in Treforest, the base for the first Welsh Groundhops. Neil our coach driver suddenly turned right, with Colin in the other coach following with the rest of the convoy carrying on along the main road. I asked why the detour and Neil replied that they were worried that the larger coach might ground on the narrow bridge in the town. It gave us a straightforward route into Llanrwst, and two grateful groundhop organisers.
I suppose I should mention the pronunciation, its Llan- Roost which will explain a few of the puns in evidence! The bridge, Pont Fawr is the most visible icon of the town, and it also forms the football club’s badge. The narrow three-arch stone bridge, is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones and was built in 1636 by Sir John Wynn of Gwydir Castle. The bridge connects the town with Gwydir, a manor house dating from 1492.
The town does have an odd historical footnote, its independence! In 1276 Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, also known as Llywelyn the Last, seized the town, declaring it a “free borough” independent from the diocese of Llanelwy. Although the bishop went as far as to seek the help of the Pope to overturn this, his attempts failed. After the death of Llywelyn in 1282, every further attempt by the Bishop of Llanelwy failed, and even now the town has its own coat of arms and flag, and the local motto “Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst” (Wales, England and Llanrwst). As recently as 1947, Llanrwst town council made an unsuccessful submission to the United Nations for a seat on the security council, stating that Llanrwst was an independent state within Wales!
As we pulled into Gwdyr Park, I remember thinking that we’d had an excellent day’s hopping so when the coach parking was unsuitable, I wondered whether the last game would be a damp squib. I could not have been more wrong, in fact if you want to know how to host a groundhop game, you could do a lot worse than do what the Rwsters did.
We walked past the stone circle, a memento of Llanrwst hosting the National Eisteddfod in 1951 and 1989, and the scene opened out in front of us all. The scenery is spectacular, and with the sun gently setting the colours took the breath away. The club had set up a beer section, and the locally produced Rwster ale was selling in large volumes. There was a merchandise tent, and the queue at the food tent was testament to the delicious curry and chilli available. The team line-ups were posted in good time, so all Chris and I had to do was count the crowd, and enjoy the game. In fact everything was perfect on Planet Groundhop until the game kicked off!
Chris and I comment that the only things we can’t influence are the weather and the quality of the game. Perhaps this was the payback for the wonderful weather, but the game was a nailed-on nil-nil from the outset. Bodedern had a reasonable penalty shout turned down, and Llanrwst hit the post late on, but the score did reflect the game all too well.
It did give us the unedifying sight of a small minority of hoppers, trying to avoid the goalless draw. For some the goal-free game is verboten, a piece of OCD on their part, and watching them makes up for the lack of goals. One hopper left early, and another raged impotently, although that may have been the lingering effects of the wasp’s nest he’d encountered at Glan Conwy.
Still there was so much to like, even to the extent of taking a closer look at the stand. The framework has rivet-holes that reveal its former use, at Peel Park, former home of Accrington Stanley. The ironwork was purchased in 1952 and with iron in short-supply due to post-war rebuilding, a new stand with second-hand materials would have been quite coup for the club. The grand old lady is still beautifully maintained, and gave us all shelter from the evening sun, as a highly successful day came to a close. Just one thing though, where do I buy a raffle ticket?