Friday 6th March 2015 ko 19.30
Welsh League Division One
BRITON FERRY LLANSAWEL 3 (Cockings 10 Jones 60 D Hudson 73)
GARDEN VILLAGE 0 Vickers sent off 85 (2nd booking)
Special GroundhopUK package (Entry, buffet, programme and talk on club) £10
Normal Entry £4
The very worst bit of being a groundhop organiser is the trip down to your base for the weekend, in this case Carmarthen. You know you’ve done all the preparation, the league is 100% behind you, the host clubs are ready, and the gazebos are being erected as you drive along the M4. You know that local journalist Chris Harte has all the programmes and badges for the event stored in his library. You’ve covered every base you can, but still the nagging doubt is always there, what could go wrong, and what will go wrong, yes something will, you are dealing with people not robots after all. Yes, its a lonely drive down, even if you’ve got (as I did) passengers.
Of course once you’ve arrived and set to work the nerves soon disappear, it is a well-oiled operation. This was the last groundhop based in the Ceredigion League, as the 5 clubs we were to visit would see us having visited every single team in the league. With the league not blessed with floodlights we decided to run the coach to an already scheduled, off-hop game at Briton Ferry Llansawel.
With GroundhopUk’s Chris Berezai having been programme editor there in the 1990’s it was an obvious choice for us, but there was a little surprise first. With quite unbelievably the Cardiff traffic behaving itself, we had enough time to pop into the Good Beer Guide listed Borough Arms in Neath for quick pint beforehand. Described as “A backstreet boozer,” they were rather swamped when a coachload of real ale buffs turned up en masse, and joked that a “coachload had just turned up” and in fact that is exactly what happened! When the coach was about to leave I popped my head round the door of the pub to check we hadn’t left anyone. Just the locals remained so I thanked them,
“You’ve made 55 English p_ss-heads really happy!”
They cheered as I dashed back to the coach.
Briton Ferry Llansawel are the result of a 2009 merger of the clubs sporting the English and Welsh names for the town, so we did hear the Gerard Kenny quote “So good they named it twice,” a few times! The club plays at the Old Road home of the former Briton Ferry which made me wonder why no one has moved into Llansawel’s old base at Neath Leisure Centre. The ground was hampered by a running track, but there are floodlights, which many local clubs lack, Pontardawe coming immediately to mind.
The coach party enjoyed the buffet, and were treated to a fine display from Ferry against Gorseinon-based Garden Village. It was one of those games where the hosts quickly discovered their opponent’s Achilles heel, they couldn’t defend corners, and ruthlessly exploited it. Two goals came from that route, and by the time Jordan Vickers saw red for his second poor challenge, the points’ destination was already set in stone.
We wended our way west to our base in Carmarthen, and half an hour later the hotel bar was the base for friends catching up and telling stories of places visited, and grounds ticked off. And that is precisely why Chris and I put ourselves through all of the planning and preparation. When you get it right the whole event buzzes, and what we had lined up of Saturday was all set to continue that.