Saturday 8th March 2014 ko 10.30
Ceredigion League Division One
ABERPORTH 3 (Griffiths 67 Glover 84og Smith 97)
CRANNOG 2 (R Roberts 11 S Jones 28)
Each time our coach crosses the border from Carmarthenshire to Ceredigion I get the feeling that something interesting is going to happen. Perhaps that’s just the anticipation of another game at another new ground, but on this particular Saturday my sense of expectancy was heightened. In this part of West Wales things happen differently, you are in Welsh Wales after all, and the pace of life is more relaxed. Understanding that culture is important and that helped us to help 5 clubs put on what was a hop that showcased themselves and their beautiful part of the world. I loved it, and I hope all those who attended did too.
Aberporth is one of those pretty-as-a-picture fishing villages that Wales seems to specialise in. It used to be a centre for the herring trade, but now is better known for tourism in general and walking to be more specific. Bottlenose dolphins can often be seen, as well as harbour porpoises, albeit less frequently.
The football team play at the Civil Service Ground, in nearby Parcllyn. That is the site of the former MOD Aberporth, and its fair to say there’s little or nothing bucolic about the location. The base is now run by QinetiQ and specialises in drone technology, and the Aberporth’s history starting as RAE Aberporth reflects the changes of use the base has seen since the club was formed in the 1950′s.
Its fair to say that the ground has seen better days. There’s a dilapidated changing room block, with a cannibalised referees’ room, a clubhouse the other side of the road, and a rough pitch, without rail or rope to surround it. Worse still there’s a natural spring behind the far goal which after the wet winter we’ve had made all concerned wonder whether the fixture could go ahead as planned. The normal practice for the Ceredigion League would be to have switched the tie to the away ground. But as much as I enjoyed our visit to Crannog’s Gwersyll Yr Urdd ground in Llangrannog last year that was not an option for a hobby based on visiting new grounds.
As it was, one corner of was very wet, but the pitch was playable and the club were able to fundraise towards improving their facilities, particularly the showers. And although the surroundings weren’t the most inviting, the club came up with a novel idea. The trouble with having the clubhouse the other side of the road is that it was far too easy for people to avoid visiting it. So a young man was sent round the pitch selling bacon rolls, then cans of Coke, and finally bags of chips. As a marketing tool it was inspired and on a chill, windy morning it looked to be profitable too!
In fact the wind turned out to be a major influence on the game, after all the goals were all scored in the same goal! If want you want from your football is silky skills, and clever tactics then the Ceredigion League probably isn’t for you. If however honest endeavour, and at times mind over matter is more important, then you’d love this. It reminded me of the days when the August Welsh hop would spend a Saturday in the South Wales Amateur League. Two rival villages’ teams would square up and the tackles would fly for 90 minutes. No quarter would be asked or given, and at the end of the game the battered and bruised players would grin, shake hands and go for a beer. I loved it then and I still love it, 1000 or so grounds later on.
Crannog raced into a wind-assisted 2 goal lead, and looked set for a famous victory, but the second half saw a total reversal of fortunes. Liam Griffiths pulled one goal back then a frankly bizarre own goal from a corner saw Crannog’s defence implode, and it was of no surprise that Aberporth won the game with a penalty just 3 minutes from time. It was a the kind of game, that as an organiser I like to see to start a hop; plenty of incident, yes and goals, and something to whet everyone’s appetite for the fun ahead. The chatter I could hear from behind me on the coach as it picked its way through narrow roads to Cardigan confirmed I wasn’t the only hopper to feel the same way.