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Sunday 9th March 2014 ko 13.00

Ceredigion League Division Two

FFOSTRASOL WANDERERS 2 (A Bowen 57 C Griffiths 88)

DEWI STARS 2 (Andrew Jones 45 Owens 90)

Att 166

Entry £3

Programme £1

Badge £3

It seemed such a long time ago when Keith drove the coach past Troedyrhiw (Troy-dur-roo) Park on the way back from New Quay and the entire coach turned to their left and gawped at the beautiful ground in rural West Wales. It’s fair to say it helped push us into towards making the Ceredigion League a regular fixture.

The main stand (and you don’t get to say that very often in this league) is a classic piece of influence. Ffostrasol played at Builth Wells and liked their stand, so in 1978 built their own version. It’s a vision of lichen covered concrete, corrugated iron, and plank seating and there wasn’t a single one of the 166 present that didn’t immediately fall in love with it! Perhaps its the process of nature gradually claiming everything back to itself that appeals.

The ground gets used for Ceredigion cup finals but you have to actually get into the ground to discover its secrets. There’s the little stand tucked away in one corner tacked on to the changing room block, and you have to visit the tiny café with its table football shelving and goalnet curtains. I got the impression that the place had got the woman’s touch, but that woman had a wonderfully clever sense of humour. Wonder if she’s married?

Even the programme had that sense of quirkiness, with its sense of history. The press clippings were fascinating, but I do have one question for them. What ever happened to Goronwy Jones (1000 appearances in 3 decades for Ffostrasol)? I grabbed a final tea and a Cawl and plonked myself down in that stand.

The Troedryrhiw pitch slopes substantially, and its no surface for those who want a slick passing game. Division Two of the Ceredigion League is about commitment, endeavour, bravery and physicality and for one last time, the challenges came thick and fast.

Dewi are of course, from Llanddewi Brefi, of “Little Britain” fame and we will be visiting them on next year’s hop. They do have one quirk that isn’t fictitious, and that is that we can’t play their game on the Sunday as their chapel won’t let them use the pitch on the Sabbath! That’s easy enough to respect, but it does show the influence the church still has on this part of the world. It seemed to me that just about every village still has their Methodist Chapel.

In a first half where, I suspect the real winner was the pitch it took a defensive error in stoppage time. An inswinging corner evaded just about everyone, but no one picked up Andrew Jones at the back post and he had the simplest of tasks to give Dewi the lead.

The second half was a far better spectacle, and the sun shone! Ffostrasol equalised Gwynfor Bowen taking full advantage of a glorious through ball. At that point I imagined that would be the end of the scoring and that a draw was the right result. As usual I was only half-right, and I have Ffostrasol substitute Carwyn Griffiths to thank for that. A counter-attack found the youngster 20 yards out and his thumping drive was utterly unstoppable. His run afterwards to the stand to indulge in a knee slide brought a smile to everyone’s lips, including I suspect those with the visitors!

But Dewi weren’t finished, in stoppage time an enormous goalmouth scramble saw the ball squirt out to Steffan Owens. In the right place at the right time, he was able to stab the ball home to take a deserved point for Dewi.

As is my want I spent the 45 minutes on the coach back to Carmarthen reflecting on the weekend. I know there’s a strand of hopper that regards this league as too low in status, yet in the 3 years we’ve been visiting these clubs there’s been a real buzz and the sense that having an annual footballing jamboree is having a positive impact on these clubs. Aberporth now should be able to improve their showers, and I know Cilgerran were after a new set of goalposts. Others no doubt have other projects, and perhaps the next hopper who turns up at any of these grounds will reflect on the good that these events do.

They don’t happen without a lot of hard work and planning, especially at this level where resources, both human and financial are tight. My article in the Cilgerran programme thanked the 5 bands of volunteers on the hop, and whilst reiterating that I’d like to add my thanks to the League, Carl our driver, and all of you that came and supported these magnificent clubs.

So what’s next? That’s it for us at GroundhopUK until the trip to Ireland in June and the United Counties Hop in August. Harvey Harris and the Northern League have their hop at Easter which looks to be an excellent event that should attract the crowds.

Before that, on April 11th and 12th is the Notts Senior League hop organised by Rob Hornby. Rob is one of football’s good guys and the hop is always beautifully run. When at least one league has erroneously thought that simply by staggering kick-offs all hoppers needs can be catered for, Rob’s efforts for the NSL and before that the Central Midlands League should be both applauded and supported. I’ll be there, and hope to see as many people as possible.