AFC Bargoed, Cardiff, Cardiff Hibernian, Cardiff Hibs, Ely Racecourse, groundhopping, South Wales Alliance, Stephen Price, Wales
Saturday 14th April 2018 ko 18.00
South Wales Alliance Division Two
CARDIFF HIBERNIAN 2 (James 30 C Reffell 90)
AFC BARGOED 2 (A Williams 12 J Thomas 27)
Entry & Programme £3
Let’s start this piece with the situation we found ourselves in a couple of weeks before the hop. We had the first two games sorted out, but they’d been scheduled anyway, and we really needed a third game for the Saturday. Obviously the original plan would have been that game being in the Carmarthenshire League, but with that avenue closed to us, Chris Berezai turned to an old friend.
The South Wales Alliance isn’t just a friend of Chris, or even GroundhopUK. They are friends of every single hopper with an interest in South Wales football. Look at many hoppers’ “Football Traveller” directories for all the evidence you need. If ever there was a league that understands the whole concept it’s David Wilcox, Phil Sweet and co; I’d like to think that the relationship has been mutually beneficial!
Here the angle was the Cardiff Hibs had lost the use North Ely Rec’ at the end of last season and had moved to Trelai Park, better known as the old Ely Racecourse. The racecourse opened in 1855 and hosted the Welsh Grand National on a multitude of occasions before the course shut with the owners seemingly more interested in developing the course at Chepstow. Of course that’s where the Welsh National takes place today.
In 1931 the local council bought the course with the site being closed as a racecourse in the late 30’s. After World War II the 15 acre site was turned into a leisure and recreation site with the likes of dog trials and clay pigeon shooting taking place in the late 40’s. Since then the area has been laid out for a multiplicity of football pitches, and until recently mini golf, and a bowls green.
The league spotted that this was a ground that would be interesting to the groundhoppers, and one that might not be on the league for the August Hop, with Hibs in relegation trouble.
That move was clearly a massive upheaval for a small club and the fact that they both managed to both survive and move was down in no small part to club stalwart Stephen Price. It was his impetus and leadership that made it all happen, and the footballing world in South Wales was shocked when he died recently aged only 42.
Under the circumstances it would have been understandable if the game had been called off, the grief was both obvious and understandable. But the club rallied, and made the brave decision to make the game a memorial game for Stephen, and donate all monies raised to his family. In final analysis it was both humbling and a privilege just being part of it.
The first impression though was just how difficult the move to Ely Racecourse must have been. If you’ve ever been to Hackney Marshes you’ll see the issue, as this is very much the Cardiff equivalent. There are no end of pitches, but none of them are enclosed in any way shape or form. There’s a railed off pitch, the club have constructed their own dugouts, but it’s still a long walk from the changing rooms!
So all credit to Cardiff Hibs for staging the game beautifully. When you have absolutely no facilties pitchside what do you do? You take a folding table, and sell canned drinks and filled rolls and you make the game entry by programme at £3. Their staging was reminiscent of Bargod Rangers in 2014 who like Hibs found themselves staging both at short notice and after a bereavement.
The game was the complete antithesis of the Swansea City youth game earlier, and I bet Hibs would love to have seen just 1% of the expense spent on the Landore Pitch spent here. But unlike the pampered professionals due west, these two teams took what was a horrible, bumpy, uncut pitch and produced a quite wonderful game, a fine tribute to Stephen Price.
The cheers when Charlie Reffell fired home the last minute equaliser were both loud and heartfelt. Judging by the final league tables it may well be that both of this sides will be playing district league football next season, but I and everyone there will wish only the best for Cardiff Hibernians who have risen through great adversity with great dignity.
There is a justgiving page for Stephen’s family here.
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