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Friday 9th March 2012 ko 7.30pm

Ceredigion League Division One

LAMPETER TOWN 2 (Rivers 39 Coombes 90)

LLANYBYDDER 2 (McEnery 13 D Thomas 84)

Att 197

Entry & Programme by hop ticket

Badge £3

Cawl (Lamb stew) £3

For those of you who don’t know me, I should explain my involvement for the next 4 games. I’m Chris Berezai’s deputy at GroundhopUK and we’ve organised hops over England and Wales for many years. I also assist Kim Hedwall who organises the Swedish groundhop in June each year. The idea is to “Turbo-charge” groundhopping by staggering kick-offs so multiple games can be seen in a day. To attract the fans the clubs produce a programme, and lay on catering. In the case of the clubs on this hop, it turned a normal attendance of 20 , into 200 or so, producing a good payday for the clubs.

This hop was in fact a tidying up exercise to get visits to Aberaeron and UWA done. Both are Mid-Wales League sides, and we’ve done hops in that league on August Bank Holiday for the last 3 years, with another, the last this coming August. Trouble is neither of those two sides are able to play at that time, so an extra hop was needed. More pressingly Aberaeron will vacate their ground at the end of the season.

With 2 sides to visit, the day needed padding out. The original idea was to finish at Llanrhaedr, but when the visitors refused to a later kickoff we had real problems. We were fortunate that Dai Davies at the Ceredigion League (a feeder to the Mid-Wales League), grabbed at the idea, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, games were resheduled to give us a Friday night under lights at Lampeter and a late afternoon game at New Quay the next day. Accomodation was booked, Keith Regan at Castell Coaches (a legend and he knows it!) sorted us out a coach, and his expert driving services booked.

Friday turned out to be a very long day, albeit very rewarding. Fellow hoppers Craig and Lee met me in Oxford at 8am, and our first job was to head to Coleshill United for a ground inspection for September’s North Berkshire League hop (You’ll love the place!). Then it was over the Severn Bridge to meet Chris and his party at one of our old stamping grounds, Trefforest. Whilst the others enjoyed South Wales’ best real ale pub The Otley Arms, Chris and I drove to the western end of the the M4, Pont Abraham to meet journalist Chris Harte, who very kindly had collected the programmes for all 4 games. From there it was back along the M4 to another hopper Richard, who let us use his front room to put together 95 programme packs for those with prebooked tickets. From there it was back to Trefforest to pick up the others. From there just a short drive along the A470 to Caerphilly to Castell Coaches.

It’s always a pleasure to work with Keith and Castell, and he was in his usual ebullient form as he bypassed Friday afternoon traffic as we picked up 35 hoppers from Cardiff station, and headed north, via Merthyr Tydfil, to the west Wales town of Lampeter in double-quick time.

Make no mistake, you are in Welsh Wales here. On an extreme level, the Free Wales Army was founded here in 1963, by  William Julian Cayo-Evan. A paramilitary Welsh Nationalist organisation, it fizzled out in the 1970’s. On a far less extreme level, the town is a centre for the Welsh language and culture, and is the UK’s smallest university town, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David adding around 1,000 on to the normal population of around 3,000. On a personal level, I very nearly went to university here, before choosing the brighter lights of London.

If things had worked out differently I may have visited Maes Y Felin over 20 years earlier, its very much the junior partner of the rugby union club running parallel to it. The rugby pitch is railed off, and there’s a large club house behind one goal. The football club makes do with a changing room block, and a rope for the pitch. The floodlights were an unusual sight for this league but gave us our Friday night game.

An under 18 game was in progress on the rugby ground and I was pleased to see our game gettiung a larger attendance. The rugby crowd looked a little nonplussed a the high attendance the football was getting!

The club made the most of their opportunity with a gazebo being erected, and a barbeque on an old circular saw fired up. A pot of Welsh Cawl (lamb stew) provided sustainance for Keith and I, followed by some Barra Brith (malted loaf). Programme packs were distributed and we were royally entertained as Lampeter entertained Llanybydder hailing from a mere 12 miles away.

Oliver McEnery’s free kick was a spectacular opening to the game, but Mark Rivers’ reponse was a fitting reposte. The two sides slugged it out in a highly entertaining, end to end match, with Daniel Thomas thinking he’d won it for Llanybydder only for Josh Coombes to fire home for a deserved equaliser deep into injury time.

It was a marvelous start to this mini-hop and it was a happy coach party that arrived the Hotel Gwesty Marine in Aberystwyth around an hour later. With around 40 hoppers staying a poster in the hotel lift amused me. It read,  ” If the hotel bar is quiet we will be closing at 10.30pm.” They clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with, as we were still chatting and drinking at midnight! When you see some people so infrequently, you have to use every opportunity to catch up!

Many thanks for Craig Dabbs for the use of his photos

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