Saturday 11th March 2017 ko 10.45
Carmarthenshire League Division Two
KIDWELLY TOWN 3 (K Griffiths 21 G Griffiths 37og R Jones 68)
DREFACH AFC 1 (Amos 8)
So, off to West Wales for the sixth straight year, and would you believe the nay-sayers still haven’t worked it out! “It’s all fields, ” and “It’s a low level of football” get bandied around as if its the first time GroundhopUK have ever tried to run an event like this! So, once again I’ll answer those two questions, are you ready?
So if you’re the kind of person who won’t watch football below a certain level, or simply has to have some kind of stand to look at, short of towing a bus shelter on casters behind the coach, as Chris Berezai’s deputy I’m happy to admit this isn’t the weekend for you. There are of course the Scottish and Easter Hops that may be more to your liking but with a full 49 seat coach and an equally full hotel in Carmarthen proved there is certainly no lack of an appetite for the game right at grassroots. It is a case of different strokes for different folks.
There was one massive problem we had in organising this weekend, and that was the quarter-finals of the West Wales FA Cup. It was due to be played the previous weekend, with any replays scheduled for hop weekend. We planned on the odd replay, possibly two and planned accordingly and watched as the entire programme was washed out, with all the ties having to be played on hop weekend.
That was disappointing for the clubs, the FAW have been and are incredibly supportive of the groundhops, the reason Welsh Cup games aren’t played on August Bank Holiday anymore is to accommodate us, but in complete contrast the West Wales FA refused to allow the replays to put back a week even though the semi-finals aren’t until 28th March. Thankfully that only affected our away sides, and no programmes had gone to print when we had to rejig a little…
It was handy for us that both Kidwelly and Drefach weren’t involved in the cup. The town is famous for it’s Norman castle clearly visible from Parc Stephens but the intriguing feature here is the black cat on the town and club’s badge. Noone knows for sure as to it’s origins but a favourite tale is that it was the first living animal to venture into Kidwelly after the plague had wiped out the entire population. One question though, if the whole populace had died, who spotted the cat?
Kidwelly were precisely the reason we organise hops like this. They hosted with wit, skill and no little charm, but did anyone solve the mystery of the beer? Normally we like clubs to sell bottles of locally-produced beers so why were they selling Wychwood, brewed in Witney closer to my home in Oxford? The answer is that the club approached a local brewery, were quoted way-over-the odds then spotted Home Bargains were doing a deal on Wychwood! Cute, gents, very cute!
Parc Stephens is named after the late Sir Alfred Stephens who made his fortune from the production of silica bricks, and donated the park to the local community in 1921. As it so often the case in South Wales, the football club is very much the junior sport to the rugby behind.
It was one of those lovely groundhop mornings where everything fell into place for all concerned. The hoppers got fed, watered, and watched an exciting game, the club got a financial windfall, and enjoyed themselves doing it, and the league raised their profile. There was though, one set of spectators I didn’t expect to see.
We’d planned on spending Sunday morning watching Pontlliw vs Pwll. Pwll’s tie in the West Wales cup was one that was rescheduled, so a new opponent was needed for the Sunday morning tie. There was only one option, Gorseinon, with their visit to Pontlliw being brought forward a few weeks. The unusual kick-off time needed their agreement, so they held a club meeting and the idea was rejected much to Pontlliw and the league’s annoyance and sending Chris and I scurrying to the fixture lists!
It was, therefore a pleasant surprise to meet a delegation from Pontlliw at this game. They turned up in club kitwear to support the hop, and pick up some tips for next year when they will be first on our to-visit list. They also told us that after the game they were off to watch Pontlliw’s new fixture, away at Gorseinon, I bet that was a fiery encounter!
The game was typical of the lower-league South Wales genre. 100% commitment and some meaty challenges went in. In the end Kidwelly had that little bit extra quality and were able to make it count. But this was the time and the place to enjoy the little details; the old phone box in someone’s garden, and the Drefach substitute wearing an England training top. Apparently they were going cheap after the European Championships……