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Saturday 23rd August 2014 ko 18.30

Welsh Alliance Division One

BARMOUTH & DYFFRYN 6 (Lewis 20 22 59 Harrison 27 S Jones 32 Ap Gwyndwr 63og)

LLANRWST UNITED 2 (Griffiths 43 45p)

Att 294

Entry £4

Programme £1

Two years ago when we at GroundhopUK and the Welsh Alliance agreed that a groundhop should take place, one club loomed large, purely down to its location. In Welsh Alliance terms Barmouth is rather out-on-a-limb, a southern outpost of the league to the extent that on arrival I was struck at how much the scenery reminded me of Aberdyfi which we’d visited on the MID-Wales hop!

So planning when to visit required some thought, with a long journey down whenever we picked our time to visit. Making it the last game of a day made sense, as that made for only one time-dependant journey; we’d looked at Sunday but the slow train journey from Blaenau Ffestiniog made that impossible with Wern Mynach lacking floodlights.

So Saturday it was, but even that looked tough, with the added misery of serious roadworks on the way. We factored in a 15 minute hold-up due to the single lane convoy system, we let our coach passengers know that we were expecting a long delay…. and sailed straight through without stopping.

With the pressure off, we were able to enjoy the journey. On a footballing level there was Y Traeth, iconic home of Porthmadog to be passed, and soon after Penrhyndeudraeth, already a hive of activity in preparation for the next day’s game. On a more historic level there was Harlech Castle, was I the only one humming “Men of Harlech” as we headed south?

Us making good time allowed the club to do better from the catering, and the bottles of Monty’s Bitter reminded many of our Mid-Wales days when a barrel of the brew was quaffed at Abermule. In the here-and-now the bottles, and pies and peas sold well in the huge marquee on the far side, but the real treat was the home baking on sale on the near side. Both groundhop organiser and deputy gained a few ounces on the back of the fruit flapjacks!

A great advantage of the second and subsequent years of a hop is the friends you’ve met along the way. Last year everyone loved Llanrwst, well until kick-off anyway! It was great to see the Roosters again and with club having covered all the bases there was little else to do but count the crowd (whoever told the league there was over 400 there was plain wrong by the way) and enjoy the game.

It was difficult to see whether Barmouth were irresistible or Llanrwst were having a bad day at the office. Certainly home forward Paul Lewis had all the keys to the visiting defence, scoring a superb hat-trick, and for me putting in the “Man-of-groundhop” performance.

One hopper managed to put his foot in it in the middle of this masterclass. He is one of the minority whose OCD lends itself to avoiding the nil-nil draw, and Llanrwst’s goalless draw last year caused great hilarity to those of us watching him rant and rage. He clearly blamed Leighton Griffiths for the lack of goals, and was mid-rant when Griffiths curled a delicious free kick past Andrew McMullen in the home goal. A penalty on the stroke of half-time made the neutral wonder whether the comeback was on, that did happen at Aberdyfi after all, but Barmouth regained the initiative after the break and never looked back.

No doubt Llanrwst will point to the loss of goalkeeper Paul Roberts to injury with the score 0-2 but replacement Josh Payne Evans had a fine game, despite seeing 4 more goals go in. That pleased the players of Harlech Town FC who had dashed south after their Gwynedd League game and they made for quite an atmosphere in the main stand! They cheered Barmouth over the line, and they shook many of the hoppers’ hands as the game finished. Lads, you were great fun, now get yourselves promoted so we can pay your ground a visit.

I grabbed a bottle of Monty’s for later, I don’t drink on duty, and once we’d thanked the Barmouth officials I made for the coaches. My coach was smaller than coach 1, so it took less time to check to everyone was aboard. I saw the Llanrwst players congregating at their minibus and made a point of thanking them for fulfilling the fixture.  Saturday evening fixtures aren’t popular with players, but it was a treat to see them again, and I hope this won’t be the last hop game we see them on.