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Sunday 29th August 2016 ko 11.30

South Wales Alliance Division Two

GARW SENIORS BOYS & GIRLS CLUB 7 (James 8 15 38 49 Jeffries 47 Hughes 60 Davies 90)

TREBANOG 2 (Cory 20 Gowan 30)

Att 257

Entry £4

Programme £1

Badge £3

When the decision was made for the Welsh Hop to return to the South Wales there was much to consider. Where to stay? What format of games? Which coach company? You can I’m sure imagine the conversations. The shortest conversation though was the first club we wanted to visit- that simply had to be Garw’s Blandy Park!

There are grounds that I’d recommend you should visit, but there are but a few that I’d tell you to drop everything and head there. This is a ground that you don’t worry about anything else but being there.

Of course the great sadness of Garw is that they’ve found themselves in the third tier of the South Wales Alliance. South Wales is somewhere where clubs can and do fall a very long way very quickly, Garw were playing in the Welsh League Division One as late as 2008, so they’ll regard their current status 6 relegations later, as the very minimum level they’d find acceptable.

No hop organiser likes rain although at least here there is cover. It did show that for all Blandy Park’s glorious quirks it does have its limitations. The ground’s electricity comes from a generator, and having the catering and the hot water tank on simultaneously proved to be a little too much for the system. Then there was the delicious breakfasts but since the clubhouse is accessed through the stand, and that was packed with sheltering hoppers it did get a little cosy! Still I’d like to think that the weather might have sent a few extra towards the food!

But there’d been so many things I’d forgotten about since my visit in 2010. There’s the pitch which looks narrow enough to worry the pedants, and then there’s the ball-boy in his waders, and the gateman with his dog. I’m a cynic but how could anyone be cynical about this place?

It did help that the game was superb too. Trebanog won last season’s Rhondda & District League and provided a physical, committed presence for this game and quite a few supporters too! What however, neither side could supply was a watertight defence, and in particular a goalkeeper in form!

The challenges flew in, the goals flowed and Jason James notched the only four-timer of the hop. The rain relented, Garw won the game, and are hopefully on the cusp of a renaissance. But as the referee’s whistle called a halt to the proceedings one thing was clear, the ground was and is the star.