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Sunday 12th March 2017 ko 15.00

South Wales Alliance Premier Division


PONTYCLUN 2 (Moss 49p Woodington 71)

Att 189

Entry £3

Programme £1

It’s worth remembering that the roots of the Welsh Spring Hop lie with GroundhopUK organising a “Hop Up” in March for clubs in the South Wales Amateur League, who due to cricket couldn’t host during August Bank Holiday.

The idea was transferred along with the August Hop to the Mid-Wales League, but then one year we were approached by the Ceredigion League who offered us a games in Lampeter, and New Quay to pad out trips to UWA and Aberaeron and we enjoyed their company so much we completed the league before moving the event to the Carmarthenshire League last season. This return to both the roots of the Spring Hop, and the now merged Alliance League was a good chance to compare past and present.

The tragedy of the piece was that Cardiff Corinthians featured at all. Founded in 1898 they are one of Wales’ oldest clubs, were the first British club to play FC Barcelona, in 1910 and from 1921 to 1924 played in the English Western League, such was the preeminence of the amateur club locally. Even after returning to purely Welsh football the club produced many of Wales’  top amateur players, but the club’s achilles heel was unquestionably their ground.

They’d been formed playing at Sophia Gardens, home to Glamorgan Cricket club, and also home at the time to Riverside, now Cardiff City. Corries moved in 1919 to Tremorfa Farm staying for 18 years but led a fairly peripatetic existence afterwards until the 1950’s when they settled at Cae’r Syr Dafydd losing that home in 1974 to a home building project. Since then they’ve shared at Radyr Cricket Club’s Riverside Ground, and it’s cricket’s dominance, that saw the hop visit now.

That of course and the sad fact that Corries were relegated from the Welsh League at the end of last season. We saw them on the August hop at Grange Albion, where their performance looked like relegation form. They’ve improved on that showing but are still very much staring over their shoulders in their aim to avoid a successive demotion. But what I took out of my afternoon was how the whole feel of the event changed, even though nominally at least we were watching football at the same level as the Carmarthenshire League.

It helped that the ground has staged football at a higher level, and that they were playing another grand old Welsh club in Pontyclun. It also helped that SWAL assistant secretary Phil Sweet, and Welsh Football magazine editor Dave Collins had helped produced the excellent programme. The staging was excellent, the faggots and peas were excellent, washed down with local real ales.

Other than the coach party, we saw a different hopper clientele from the rest of this hop. Now I”m happy to see anyone on our events, even the oddballs who criticise everything we do behind our backs, but nevertheless turn up to just about everything we do (work that one out!). It was good to see friends too, as the hop reached its finale by the River Taff.

The irony was that this game was at precisely the same level as the top flight Carmarthenshire fixtures. Now it’s true that the ground gradings are stricter in the South Wales Alliance, but to some extent the extra few on the gate was due to reputation. In its two guises the Alliance has been good for hoppers and vice versa, and this game served only to enhance that reputation. It is, by the way, a reputation that the Carmarthenshire League should aim to match, and we at GroundhopUK will help them where we can.

The game was as hard fought as you’d expect of a side worried by relegation. A penalty saw Ponty take the lead, with Corries equalising almost immediately. And I’m sure if Corries were having a merely indifferent season, that would have been how it would have finished, but bad things happen to good clubs who are struggling so Woodington’s winner was a real hammer blow.

It was a rewarding end to a hop that took more organising than it should, through no club’s fault. As is always the case events like this require two things, management and time, and due to the latter, Chris was able to do the former. God forbid we are ever in a position where we have neither.