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Saturday 8th March 2013 k0 16.00

Ceredigion League Division Two

CILGERRAN ROVERS 1 (K Phillips 66)

LLANON 0

Att 226

Entry £3

Programme £1

Badge £3

Beer £2.75

Cheese £4

Hat £5

Food – All of it!

I have a mate Graeme who has an unusual hobby, he collects Chinese takeaway menus. Other than that and the groundhopping he’s quite a well-adjusted chap he’s a schoolteacher, but if you’re in a car and you pass the takeaway, your journey will be paused for him to dash out and collect another one for his collection. Being a groundhopper helps his cause and other hoppers collect for him, so he’s got menus from places such as Hungary, the USA and Malta but I think the centrepiece of his collection ought to be a British takeaway menu from China!

Its a real shame there wasn’t a printed menu at Cilgerran, because never mind Graeme, I’d have wanted a copy to keep, as the range of food and drink on offer was quite staggering, better and more varied than any host club I’ve encountered. There was chicken curry, veggie lasagne, pork and stuffing rolls, tart with custard, and at least 5 types of real ale for to wash it all down with. It was a staggering effort, one I hope has landed the club with a real windfall, and next time on a groundhop game and you see a club not bother or invite in the burger van, then please reflect on this wonderful little club, only reformed for a couple of years, and playing at the base of the Welsh pyramid in this part of the world.

The other thing that impressed me was how Liz and her team got the community involved, in much the same way St Dogmaels did last year. Local cheeses were on sale, and this will probably be the only game I ever leave regretting not having bought more cheese, but it seemed that the whole area turned out to support their club. That’s how they got the highest attendance of the weekend, and made many new friends in the process.

The daftest part of this tale is that for 5 minutes I didn’t notice any of it. Secretary Liz had had to contend with a marquee flying away in the strong wind just before the coach arrived, and so I got roped in sorting out the line-ups board, while she helped Carl park the coach. I learned a lesson there, the teamsheets aren’t completed until after the game in this league so getting the line-ups aren’t simply a question of finding the referee! Lesson learned, and a good pointer for the future.

The small town of Cilgerran, apart from being a centre for coracle-making, races on the Teifi still take place each year, has the picturesque 13th century castle, painted by Turner and the St Llawddog’s parish church, where geologist William Logan is buried. He was the first geologist to suggest that coal consists of fossilised plants, and Mount Logan, at 19,551 ft the highest mountain in Canada, and the second highest in North America is named in his honour.

The Parc-y-dre ground lies up a hill at the edge of town. When the old Cilgerran club folded in 2003 Maeglas and St Dogmaels occasionally used the ground for reserve games. There isn’t much here, just a bumpy pitch with containers for changing rooms, but the views over the Teifi valley are as spectacular as I’ve come to expect from this part of the world. It rather made up for a game that owed more to commitment and endeavour than any great skill. Llanon transferred sideways from the Aberystwyth League for this season and have struggled, they’re rock bottom with 2 points (albeit with 3 points deducted for a postponement) and 42 goals conceded from 14 games played, but at no time did this look like a drubbing.

Yes, Cilgerran controlled the game but without looking like scoring, and with one eye on the clock, that piece of groundhopping OCD,  the cult of avoiding the nil-nil draw began to emerge. After the nil-nil at Llanwrst in August I knew who the suspects were, and just as the yips were really taking hold, a cross hit Llanon’s Keiron Craine on the arm. It was the harshest of penalties, the type you only concede when you’re bottom of the league with 2 points, and Kyle Phillips despatched the penalty that pleased everyone other than those involved with Llanon. They if nothing else will have a wonderful example of what to do when they host a game on next year’s hop.

We climbed back on the bus loaded down with hats, cheese, beer and full bellies at the end of a highly successful day. Once I’d let the media know the final score, and planned my evening, a Chinese meal, and yes I did get Graeme a menu I reflected on what Cilgerran achieved. Any groundhop organiser has a select band of host clubs to use as an example of what excellence looks like. Cilgerran added themselves to that list, and I can think of no better compliment I can pay them.