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Monday 27th August 2018 ko 11.00

Taff Ely & Rhymney Valley League Premier Division

RHYDYFELIN 2 (Mahoney 4p 73)

Mahoney missed penalty 37

YNYSYBWL 4 (Dan Davies 39 Livock 45 82 L Price 57) 

C Jones sent off 3 (DOGSO)

Tooze sent off 37 (DOGSO)

Att 229

Entry £3

Programme £1

Monday dawned on the final day of the hop, and fortunately the rain had abated save for the odd shower. I knew I’d be approaching the day with mixed feelings, as this was to be GroundhopUK’s last day with the South Wales Alliance for the time being since we’ve run out of clubs that either want to host, can host, or we’ve not already visited.

For this hop the original plan was to start Monday at Cardiff-based St Albans, but they turned us down so the next idea was to go to STM Sports Old Boys, but the pitch they use as the University of Wales wasn’t available as the university was closed over the bank holiday. So we decided to go for a blast from our collective past.

The Welsh Hop visited Rhydyfelin at their former ground at the Upper Boat Playing Fields back in 2005. It was my first taste of the South Wales Amateur League and 14 years later I’m so glad I took a step outside my then comfort zone and went. I’d not seen anything lower down than Merthyr Tydifil then! I’m bound to comment that game saw a crowd of 183, so the hop is still growing!

Rhydyfelin moved  to the Old Dog Track Ground in Hawthorn in 2016, pretty much adjacent to the village itself. The ground has had an interesting history, dating from 1932, and dog racing carried on until the 1970’s with Rhydyfelin RUFC using the ground until recently. 2016 proved to be a momentous time for the football club as no sooner as they’d moved, they had to fold their SWAL team due to as they put it, “Lack of commitment from the players.” They rebuilt using their youth team in the Taff Ely League, and have reached the top division, still one step down the South Wales Alliance.

That shows the type of people were dealing with, the attitude being “If we do something do it well, ” and this Bank Holiday visit completely proved the point!

If I wondered whether we’d asked too much of Llangeinor then any fears I’d had about a club playing at the 9th level of Welsh football were assuaged the second I walked in the gate. Put simply, the club ticked every single box, and did it with and charm, and the visiting throng loved them for it. Thanks needs also to the group of Ynysybwl supporters, who added both noise and colour to the occasion.

But you know you’ve hit on something special when hoppers (me included) are offering to buy the club’s branded beer mats! Trips to the Upper Boat will never, ever be the same! Rhydyfelin would have seen the host club of the hop beyond any doubt had the game been a dull nil-nil, but it ended up being a bone fide classic.

It started in dramatic fashion, with Yynysybwl defender Carl Jones handling Jake Mahoney’s shot on the line, and was sent off. Mahoney stroked home the penalty. Now if you think that’s remarkable, then in the 37th minute Mahoney’s shot was handled on the line, this time by Jamie Tooze, who like Jones, was sent off, and a penalty awarded.

Now, imagine you’re in the bookies and a team is down to 9 men, and is facing a penalty. What price would you expect for that team to go and win the game? 100-1? 1000-1? Well what happened next will go down in groundhopping folklore.

Mahoney missed the penalty, but even then you still expected the floodgates to open, Ynysybwl were down to 9 men after all, but instead of folding, they threw caution to the wind. Daniel Davies quickly pulled a goal back, and just before Marcus Divock equalised.

Half time made no difference to Ynysybwl. Livock collected his second soon after the restart, and when Leigh Price scored the 4th for the 9 men, the throng watching didn’t know whether to cheer, to smile or just look as stunned as anyone involved at our hosts. Rhydyfelin managed to pull one back through the prolific Mahoney, but it was too little, too late.

As organiser of these events you look for at least one of the following 3 to happen at a host ground. That is, a great ground, great hosting, and a great game. If you get one you’re satisfied, two is great, but if you get all three someone special has happened. This was the best game, and the best hosting of the hop, and every time I pass the village on the A470 heading towards Merthyr I’ll always glance across and remember the little club with the big heart who put on a show we’ll never ever forget.