Canton Rangers, Cardiff Sports Campus External 3G pitch, Chris Berezai, Clwb Cymric, Football, groundhop, groundhopping, GroundhopUK, Maesteg Park, Non League, Ocean Park Arena, South Wales Alliance, Tudor Park, Wales
Monday 29th August 2022
11:00 South Wales Alliance Division One
MAESTEG PARK 2 (Kingdon 26 Evans 42)
VALE UNITED 2 (Hanson 40 Jefferies 70)
Gauci sent off (DOGSO) 55
Jefferies missed penalty 60
14:00 South Wales Alliance Division One
CANTON RANGERS 3 (Injai 32 Tegeltha 62 Power 68)
AFC BUTETOWN 2 (Abdulkaliq Yusuf 6 24)
16:15 South Wales Alliance Division One
CLWB CYMRIC 4 (Withers 18 Hughes 60 Roberts 77 90)
GRANGE ALBION 0
With this being a South Wales Alliance reunion hop we’d always planned on the Monday being the traditional “Cardiff Day.” With Canton Liberal and Canton Rangers having moved into adjacent grounds as part of the development behind the Cardiff International Sports Stadium. So it was an obvious move to make the first game at Liberal then stroll over to Rangers. There was only one issue with that idea though….
It was that prospective opponents Ely Rangers declined the fixture, so we had to change plans completely, and before you ask, my sympathies lie with all at Liberal; they helped us out massively in the past. The aim will be to visit the Libs as soon as we can.
So picture the scene, I took a call from GroundhopUK’s Chris Berezai, who’d worked out as I and a few others had that the obvious replacement was Maesteg Park, and he asked did I know anyone involved there? Fortunately, I did courtesy of a 3 minute abandonment there nearly 3 years ago. So secretary Andrew Jones and I corresponded via Twitter messenger in the weeks leading up to the event.
The only issue from my perspective was that for a fair chunk of the time I was in either Helsinki or Stockholm! He had GroundhopUK’s briefing notes and I helped them put a Maesteg stamp on it. For the avoidance of any doubt though, their success was down to their own efforts, my only claim will be advising on beer types! Mind you if you ever want advice on beer at a hop game, just ask Vale United!
And while I’ll always find Ely’s decision disappointing, it did mean we ended up at one of the great hop games, both in terms of its hosting and the game. Off the pitch of course you want great hosting, and the beer and Welsh cawl saw to that, but the X-factor here was good, old fashioned decency, and if you think that was just for the day, then let me advise you they were just as wonderful 3 years ago.
As for the game well you can’t fault the exchange of goals we had here, even if the visitors will probably see the dismissal of Steve Gauci as a large factor in why they didn’t win the game. But in the final analysis this was so obviously Maesteg Park’s morning. I really could begrudge them that point. For if any club knows they’re going to host a hop game and what do it superlatively, all they’ve got to do is phone Andrew at Maesteg.
After Maesteg’s wonderful start to the day we headed back to Cardiff, and to the Leckwith Stadium complex. We’d seen Canton Liberal on a side pitch there four years ago, and the main stadium is well known as where Cardiff Grange Quins used to play and where Cardiff City tend to play youth team fixtures. The side pitch has gone, as has the dome that covered the pitch behind the stand.
And it’s behind the main stand where the transformation is most obvious. Two mini stadia have been built under the auspices of Cardiff & Vale College, one is used by Canton Liberal, and the other by another by Canton Rangers. They are both new to the league and the awkwardly titled Cardiff Sports Campus External 3G pitch for this season. They moved from Trelai Park where we saw Cardiff Hibernian a few years ago.
Now while it was the case that we only managed to visit one of the two new grounds, Rangers certainly looked at our briefing notes and followed their advice. They got a local brewery involved and watching the delighted hoppers make a beeline for the bar was quite a sight! It did produce quite a contrast with the Butetown following who seemed to be both very tall and very thin, with the groundhoppers, whose steady diet of pies and real ale meant they were, well neither.
We’d visited AFC Butetown on the same hop as Trelai Park, but I’m bound to say Canal Park has been completely transformed since then and is now not unlike what we saw here. Back then the pitch made a good game impossible, but the surface here made for an exceptional afternoon.
Except Butetown will wonder how on earth they contrived to lose this one. With Abdulkaliq Yusuf very much to the fore they raced into a two goal lead, and after half an hour most there wondered how many they’d score. But they stopped passing and moving, a frustrated Yusuf was eventually withdrawn and Rangers found it within themselves to turn the tie around completely.
It really was quite an afternoon.
I’ll admit being rather intrigued by Clwb Cymric as the club are part of a Welsh language speaking club and there are places in Wales where Cymraeg is spoken far more than in the capital, the hop’s trip to Llangrannog 9 years ago springs to mind. I suppose the line to take is that if you want to encourage more people to speak Welsh there’s little point in picking a place where everybody does!
Being as this was a hop game, that meant a programme, I would have been quite happy for the whole thing to have been in Welsh, and I did think of a Swedish hop a few years ago where the club did two versions of the programme one in Swedish, and knowing there’d be British guests, one in English! I did have great difficulties explaining why people would want both versions despite speaking only English!
We did see one issue with our destination. It was that Clwb Cymric rent the Ocean Park Arena to play SWAL games. The facility is a joint venture between Cardiff City and Cardiff Council, and for our purposes it meant that the club would see no return on any food sold in the cafe. That is a regret, catering is a massive money spinner on these events, so it least they made to most of the patrons who came to watch- there was no way of avoiding the girls on the gate.
The tie featured Grange Albion, a club who’ve been good to use in the past playing at odd times. Thanks once again to them for helping out again, but they came off very second best here.
The coach picked its way through Cardiff’s busy streets bound for drop-offs at the main station then back to base at Treforest. It was an honour to have league chairman Phil Sweet with us, as he’d been throughout the weekend, we’d even gone for a few beers with the previous evening. He thanked the hoppers for visiting the South Wales Alliance, and I sat there thinking if anythimg we ought to be thanking Phil and the league. Without them we probably wouldn’t have had a Welsh Hop.
The words to use I think is mutuality, each side is happy to help the other, that’s why GroundhopUK and the Alliance work so well together, and I hope that when sufficient grounds are in league membership, we’ll return. In the shorter term though the ball is very much in the court of the Gwent League both in terms of their management and clubs . Hopefully their communication issues are now behind them and next year we can resume our meandering round their football grounds in South Wales.