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With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.

Friday April 10th 2009 ko 14.30
South West Peninsula League Division One East

ROYAL MARINES 1 (Sullivan 54og)

Foster sent off 88 (2 x dissent)

EXETER CIVIL SERVICE 2 (Hawes 60 Mortimer 68)

Att 421 at Endurance Park, Heartbreak Lane, Lymphstone

Entry £3

Programme £1

On any organised hop there’s always a club or ground the organiser knows the groundhoppers are going to love. In Easter 2009 Phil Hiscox organised the South West Peninsula Hop around his stamping ground of Devon, and it really didn’t take a genius to work out that a trip to watch the Royal Marines play at Endurance Park, at the end of Heartbreak Lane would turn out to be rather popular.

Give Phil a lot of credit too, games on military bases take more organising- I should know. Here he was spared the need to get everyone through a security check, I did that first at Benson Lions 4 years later and I’m bound to say I’m glad I didn’t try it for a crowd for 421!

Fortunately for everyone in general and Phil specifically, Endurance Park is beyond the security checks and fences, the only instruction out of the ordinary was to only take photos of the ground and its surrounds, the base itself was out of bounds. But the visit is in folklore because of an exchange that allegedly happened between Phil and the club during the planning meeting. It apparently went something like this,

Phil, “ So can you cater for 400 groundhoppers?”

The club, “Will that be under gunfire or not?”

For the record the food was magnificent, and no shots were fired- well unless you count the ones with a football during the game itself! It gave everyone a wonderful impression of the club and their baseball caps sold by the bucketload, I’ve still got mine, and 11 years later I still see them on organised hops.

Then there was the Marines somewhat ironic choice of kit. Celtic green and white hoops- I wonder how that went down on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland? But I suspect they weren’t the types to worry, just look at that Iraq shirt in the clubhouse!

Of course all the one-liners were uttered, will Civil Service make us join a queue? Would would the Marines shoot straight? And would military discipline win out? Well the answer to the last question was definately no, just look at the dismissal- 2 bookings, for both for dissent!! It was a day recognised by anyone who has ever organised a groundhop- the hosts won absolutely everywhere but on the pitch.

So what happened to the two clubs? Exeter Civil Service became Exwick Villa in 2013 when the Civil Service sold their ground. The ground was bought by the local authority, the pitch rotated, and extensively remodeled. Unexpectedly the Peninsula Hop visited the much-altered ground in 2018 when a deluge saw Honiton’s game was switched to take advantage of the new 3G pitch.

By what of the Marines? The next season they won Division One East, then played two seasons in the SWPL’s Premier Division. Sadly in 2012 they finished bottom, and opted to leave open, adult football. Endurance Park is still there, but hosts only inter-forces football. That was, and is a crying shame because this was an exceptional afternoon.