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Saturday 26th August 2017 ko 18.30

South Wales Alliance Premier Division

YNYSHIR ALBIONS 2 (Williams 6 Evans 10) Rewbury missed pen 44

TON & GELLI B.G.C. 1 (Davies 41)

Att 260

Entry £3

Programme £1

There were a few tired legs as we headed down the hill from the car park to the Ynyshir Oval. Mind you if you wanted someone with reason to be tired a call to the game’s referee Peter Small would be in order. The 70-year-old was about to take the whistle for his 4th game of the day after running the line in the 3 other hop games today. Peter and the Welsh Hop go back a long way, and thanks to him, a genuine legend of Valleys football.

Like most other villages in the Rhondda, Ynyshir grew around coal mining, the Ynyshir Steam colliery being sunk to supply the ironworks at Treforest, but the village’s more esoteric claim to fame is being where soft drink Lurvill’s Delight was invented.

Invented by twin brother residents of Ynyshir, Harold and Iolo Lewis, the carbonated mixture included stinging nettles, dock leaves and was infused with juniper berry extract. The profits made from the drink were used to pay for 150 miners and their families from the village to emigrate to Pittsburgh and Denve. The drink ceased production in 1910 due to a shortage of dock leaves in the local area but has been revived locally. I wish there’d been a bottle or two to buy, but then I may have been in a minority, this was a hop fuelled by real ale!

The intriguing bit of the evening’s entertainment was Ynyshir’s pluralised suffix. Noone seemed to to know why its “Albions” not “Albion, so I can only that since the club was formed from two clubs, Ynyshir and Wattstown, perhaps that’s a clue.

The Oval was a fine location to finish our day even if the lack of toilets made me suspect that the culverted stream running underneath the ground was running a little faster. But that was a small quibble, the food sold well, the club made sure Chris Berezai and I had to do nothing else but count the crowd! Even Peter Small was having an easy night, he only booked one!

The first half flew by in a flurry of goals, free kicks and woodwork struck, a 45 minutes a savour. The second half was nowhere near as good, the players seemed to run out of steam, mirroring the hoppers’ legs a little!

Now the great advantage of writing about this a few weeks after the event is that you can contextualise what happened. I know one or two hoppers who didn’t go on this event as they thought the grounds wouldn’t be much good. It might surprise you but I do have some sympathy for that view. The Cardiff based grounds do tend be rather basic, but the Valleys grounds to tend to be rather spectacular, so I reckon the trick is to do everything- one tends to make you appreciate the other!

I certainly saw a few comments on social media commenting that in missing Ynyshir that they’d missed a gem. Over a pint or two that evening at the Otley Arms back in Treforest, the hop party agreed!