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Saturday 21st May 2022 ko 14:30

South Wales Alliance W John Owen Cup Final 



No extra time, Cardiff Corinthians won on 5-4 on penalties

Att 507 at USW Treforest (Pontypridd Town FC)

Entry £4

Programme (superb) £1

Teamsheet Free

The truth of it is that all reputations are earned. The sheer numbers of groundhoppers at the South Wales Alliance’s Cup Final bore testament to that league’s efforts over many years welcoming groundhoppers, on no end of organised events over the years. As committeeman Phil Sweet put it, “We thought there might be groundhoppers, so we thought we’d do a programme.” They are a league that grasped what the hobby is all about a long time ago and have continued that knowledge throughout my time hopping. 

It was an unusual one for me, as I had more than one reason to be there. Take my GroundhopUK involvement out of the equation and this was a chance to see the USW Sports Ground that Pontypridd Town will use for their bow in the Cymru Premier next season. For what its worth it is an entirely new ground, if like me saw Bridgend Town during their one-season stint here in 2008-9 you’ll be interested to know that the new ground is in the north-western corner of the site, whereas the “Bridgend” pitch is in the south-eastern corner and uses an entirely separate changing room block.

The other reason was definitely GroundhopUK related. It was with no little regret that our relationship with the South Wales Alliance finished back in 2018 at AFC Whitchurch, as we’d run out of clubs to visit! We shifted the hop to the Gwent County League, now the Gwent Premier League, but the hop had been forced to go into abeyance for two seasons due to the pandemic. But with restrictions now lifted, we were keen to get the Welsh Hop back on the calendar.

GroundhopUK owner Chris Berezai tried to contact the Gwent League but failed to get any kind of a reply. We took the view that since Gwent were, so to speak, in possession of the hop they should be given every chance to continue as host league. But we’d tried to speak to them in April, it was now late May and we’d heard nothing, so Chris headed to Penybont to watch the 3 SWAL’s finals in a day there for the feeder league champions to play off for league membership. 

It wasn’t ever a case having to convince the league that they might want us back; we’ve never stopped talking with them. We know they want us back, and our view has always been that we would, when there was both a vacancy and they had sufficient clubs we hadn’t visited. Well Chris watched the list of potential host clubs rise by three making a SWAL hop viable, and by the time the Gwent League replied to all the emails and answerphone messages we had the bones of this August’s hop in mind. 

It turned out there had been a change of regime in Gwent, and the old guard had neither told us, nor forwarded our messages to the new management. The main thing was that we took action early, and we now have contact with the new committee in Gwent. So we’ll visit the SWAL for a reunion hop this August, and the idea is that we’ll hopefully return to Gwent for 2023. 

But back to the cup final, perhaps it was hardly surprising that the two finalists were well known to aficionados of those SWAL hops.  Llanrumney have moved since we saw them, but who could forget the Sunday lunch of faggots when we visited Cardiff Corries?

For me, and please forgive the wobbly metaphor, the SWAL hops have been an exercise in Valleys flavour, which is something noticeably lacking at the USW Sports Park. I got the impression that save for the bilingual signage you could be virtually anywhere.

I should point that the fence  behind the near goal will be moved backwards to accommodate more seats during the close season to fulfil Cymru Premier ground grading rules, but this will continue to be the type of “Arena” stand, and caged 3G combination you can see at the likes of St Helens TownK Sports and many others. It is certainly practical, and I cans see why the league likes holding finals here, but remarkable a piece of architecture it is not. 

The game was prefaced by a minute’s silence to remember FAW councillor and Ely Rangers chairman Bob Fry who’d died the week before. Bob was a genuine friend to Welsh football, and it was he, with Chris Berezai that dreamt up the idea for the first Welsh Hop, and the story of how he made sure Ely Rangers got their floodlights will be chuckled about while a football is kicked about in South Wales. 

It was a sweltering day, and it was clear that both the temperatures and the sense of occasion weighed heavily on both teams. They worked hard, but with little finesse in the heat and penalties looked inevitable from fairly early on. Except there was a quite a twist; I’ve watched more than my fair share of games but seeing pretty much all there was to see in second half stoppage time is a new one for me!

The goals of course cancelled each other out so we had the lottery of penalties, and apart from all that entails I was taken by the sight of the committee kneeling to allow those stood behind them to see better. The history books will record that Cardiff Corinthians won the cup but what I saw was the mutual respect between the two sets of players, fans and officials- I’m sure Bob would have loved that.

As for the South Wales Alliance it was lovely to be seeing their people and once again seeing their football. I for one will be looking forward to the August Hop immensely. 

To finish a piece of advice. When you visit the USW Sports Park do allow time to exit. The car park involves typing your car’s registration into a pay point to calculate the fee payable. The problem is that there seems to be only one machine, and the process is rather laborious. Hopefully supply will be driven by demand and more machines will be erected. 


Dedicated to the memory of Bob Fry, a friend to football and Wales. Rest in peace.