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Sunday 8th March 2015 ko 14.30

Ceredigion League Division One

LLANBOIDY 3 (James 25 33 37)

MAESGLAS 3 (Roche 17 Harman 43 75p)

Att 219

Entry £3

Programme £1

Badge £3

The great advantage of being stood next door to league secretary Aled Davies at Pencader was that he’d been in near constant contact with Llanboidy, and confirmed there were no issues with the weather, in fact it was blue skies all around! It had stopped raining for the last ten minutes at Pencader, but when I returned to the car and put the postcode for Cae Dandre into the satnav I wondered if I’d got the correct address!

There are no lack of Carmarthenshire clubs in the Ceredigion League, but Llanboidy is right on the border with Pembrokeshire! The village lies on the Welsh side but close to the Landsker Line, where supposedly the first language spoken changes from Welsh to English. In fact the club only applied to the Ceredigion League after the Pembrokeshire League turned them down citing a lack of referees to officiate at their games. I was most impressed when club volunteers were there to direct everyone down the narrow lane, I parked up, was identified as one half of GroundhopUK and was immediately whisked away to be fed a hog roast and a cup of tea.

Normally I like to maintain a benign presence, to be able to help if needed, but it was obvious I wasn’t needed! The indoor bowling centre was being used to house the catering, the hog roast was augmented by goulash and dumplings, with home made cake for afters. The bar was serving locally brewed ales, and the line-ups board was being completed in front of me. Clearly when GroundhopUK does its job well, we simply make ourselves redundant for an afternoon!

That of course is the point of what we do, if the correct guidance is lacking the clubs flounder, make mistakes, and no one enjoys the experience or makes any money. Yes we’re a commercial enterprise, much is made of it, but our success is purely down to maximising opportunities for clubs, leagues, and hoppers. If they fail, so do we. The remarkable thing about Llanboidy is that their staging gave the impression of a club on the up when sadly the exact opposite was the case.

They were rock bottom of the table, having lost every game this season, including the reverse fixture at Maesglas. The fixture when we first set the hop was due to be against St Dogmaels, but they shied away, not wanting to play on a Sunday, so we ended up with Maesglas with them being the only team to play in all 4 hops, and defending an unbeaten hop record too! Their season has been almost as bad as Llanboidy’s for them, and those 3 points they won were expunged by the league when they later failed to fulfil a fixture. So two sides already relegated, and with not a point between them.

An entire pig was eaten, the goulash sold out at half time, and everywhere seemed busy save for the tug o’ war machine in the corner.  I did wonder whether the sides would play out a dull 0-0 draw, happy to let each other register a point, but this is the Ceredigion League and they don’t do things like that. Yes the defences were predictably suspect but that gave the forwards the opportunity they needed.

Jonathan James notched a first class hat-trick but Maesglas dug deep and the neutrals amongst us were quietly pleased both sides were able to register a point in what has been an awful season for them.

There are so many people to thank, Carl our coach driver, all at the Ivy Bush Royal Hotel in Carmarthen, and all at the Ceredigion League especially Aled Davies, referee extraordinaire! The clubs over the last 4 years to man and woman have been wonderful, and I know everyone has appreciated their efforts.

I continue to hear the cat-calls of “I’m not interested in fields,” and I will never apologise for taking hops to unusual leagues. For the hopper it gives the opportunity to visit somewhere they wouldn’t think of visiting normally, and so if its “Not on your radar,” try recalibrating it! For the clubs the benefit is massive, more so than for clubs further up the food-chain. Here’s David Miles, manager of Felinfach,

” I’m not overly impressed with our pitch #onourhill, the money we have raised thanks to groundhop, hopefully will go towards improving what we have. Money creates opportunity to improve, no matter how big or small the club is. Grass roots football is decreasing, did hackney marshes have stands and high quality of facilities? We all started somewhere.”

If that doesn’t convince you, here’s the email Chris and I received from Bruce Scurfield, chairman of Llanboidy, I reproduce it its entirety, with his permission.

“Good Evening, I just had to take the opportunity once again to thank both of you and all fellow groundhoppers for giving us the privilege to host such a wonderful, fantastic, marvellous and completely mind-blowing hop last Sunday

All the work and organisation from day one was hard at times but soooo thoroughly enjoyable as well and the whole event was such a brilliant experience for all concerned at the club. The day itself generated a real feel good factor and it was so pleasing to see such a number of local people there at the hop that have never been to see us play before!!  

I am also pleased to say that the party atmosphere continued well into the night as a surprise gathering had been arranged to celebrate me and my twin brother’s 50th birthday which was on the Monday so it turned out to be a very, very LARGE day in the end!!

I have since had a count of the pennies and I am truly flabbergasted to announce that between the days takings added to the money from our match programme sponsors the club has raised the grand sum of £2,200.00!! Which was way more than what we dreamed of doing. Also the bar takings for the day also were in excess of £1,200.00 which again was mainly down to the “hop factor”.

So a good day had by all but so sad that this was the last of the Ceredigion hop, however lets hope that the Carmarthenshire League see sense (surely they will be mad not to??!!) and allow you to come and visit their grounds which will give us the ideal opportunity to come and see you again!!

Diolch/Thankyou Bruce & all at Llanboidy FC

So where are we now? Well that, sadly is it for the Ceredigion League, we’ve visited every club in the league. We approached the Pembrokeshire League, but they declined the offer, citing vacancies on committee, making the work they’d have to complete too much for them. We did point out that what we’d need them to do is no more than schedule the games, and watch them but that project has stalled, although some of the teams in the league seem to have revolted when the news was published in their monthly newsletter!

We’ve put a proposal into the Carmarthenshire League, that would allow us to maintain our base and coach company, and the committee there meet to discuss it in April. One way or another, the Welsh Spring Hop will still be here next March. One final thing though, whichever league we end up, can we borrow Aled please?