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Sunday 17th April 2016 ko 11.30

Carmarthenshire League Division 2

LLANDOVERY 4 (Archer 11 C Davies 42 R Davies 90 L Bailey 90)

PORTH TYWYN SUBURBS 0

Att 111

Programme £1

Badge £3

Sunday’s first game saw the hop head east once again and aim for the A40. The town of Llandovery is steeped in history, and the drive out from Carmarthen picturesque but as usual in the first hop of a league’s staging I wondered what we’d find. The first host clubs have no point of reference so as organiser you rely on them using their meetings and the host clubs’ guide to make the most of their opportunity. I knew we’d given them the best possible opportunity but you worry, and the day I don’t will be the day I give up. Robyn rested her head on my shoulder, I took in the view and thought positive thoughts.

Llandovery is famous for two things. The first is its rugby team who play in the top flight for Welsh clubs, the Welsh Premiership and were founder members of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The second is its castle built in 1110 by the Normans. It was taken by the Welsh under Gruffydd ap Rhys soon after and changed hands fairly frequently over the years before finally falling to Edward Longshanks’ English forces in 1277. It was partially ruined during the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion in 1403 in which Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan was hanged, drawn, and quartered near to the castle for his part in the insurrection. Legend has it that his execution, on the orders of Henry IV was grisly even by the standards of the method. He is celebrated as a Welsh “Braveheart” by a 16 feet tall stainless steel statue close to his place of execution.

The castle forms a wonderful backdrop to the town’s football ground, and as our coach pulled into the Castle Playing Fields looking at the castle may have diverted attention away from the issues facing us.

My immediate thought was that there didn’t seem to be much going on, and that I could see the referee Alan Davies looking nervously at a sandy patch on the pitch. I pondered briefly what needed my attention first, and made for the wet patch. It turned out that there’s a stream running under and across the pitch, and with a wet winter the pitch had been flooded. The club had put down over a ton of sand, but even all that had done little more than create a wet sandpit. I imagined horror films involving quicksand, but the ref was happy to play, so I turned my attention to the clubhouse.

To my relief it was a hive of activity, and the catering seemed to be selling well. In fact the only issue seemed to be lack of spectators. Plenty of the hoppers had disappeared to the town’s pubs, nothing unusual in that, and at least 2 missed the first 20 minutes of the game, but where were the locals?

It proved to be the main bugbear at 4 of the 5 hop games. Here it was at its most acute, probably to the predominance of rugby. When you’ve got the choice of top flight rugby, the football at the 7th tier isn’t going to be a big draw. That is a shame, as the club seemed vibrant, and they beat Porth Tywyn easily. In fact the real sadness here was seeing just how far the visitors have fallen since leaving the Welsh League in 2004.

Hopefully they’ll regroup and recover, but I’d enjoyed my time in Llandovery far more than I’d expected, and as the coach headed to Carmarthen I knew the hop still had its trump card to play.

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