Friday 26th August 2016 ko 18.30
South Wales Alliance Premier Division
SULLY SPORTS 2 (Briscombe 22 73p)
CANTON LIBERAL 4 (Kooper 10 Phillips 27 61 Quick 40)
When the 2015 Welsh Groundhop finished its stint in the Welsh Alliance at Penmaenmawr Phoenix Chris Berezai and I had a few decisions to make. On one hand we loved the accommodation at Chester University, and had an excellent relationship with our coach company up there, but we were torn over which league or leagues to visit. Ideally we like multi-division leagues with no reserve teams as that allows for the hop to stay in a league for 3 or more years, but there was a clarion call from our past….
GroundhopUK’s roots lie in South Wales when in 2002 Chris organised a Friday/Saturday hop in the Welsh League with the rest of August Bank Holiday seeing the hop moving east into the Hellenic League. Each year after the South Wales Amateur League, a feeder to the Welsh League, took the majority of Welsh hop games. My first GroundhopUK event was the 2005 Welsh Hop, and my first as Chris’s deputy was 2009, our last year in South Wales.
We moved to the Mid Wales League and then to the Welsh Alliance because we’d visited all the clubs in the Amateur League; but we missed the league, its clubs and Dave Wilcox its secretary. I missed what I felt was where my love affair with Welsh non league football started, the hill up to the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) where we stayed, the coach ferrying us between pit villages, and at the end of the day an pint or two at South Wales’ finest real ale pub- the Otley Arms in Treforest.
What changed everything was the merger of the South Wales Amateur and South Wales Senior Leagues the season before last. That gave us a whole slew of new grounds and clubs to visit, and the temptation rapidly turned into a plan.
In the end it was a no-brainer to bring the Welsh Hop home but there was one detail to be ironed out. The league were more than happy to have us back, but were used to the Friday/Saturday format, but in the time we’d been away the Welsh Hop had become a 4-day extravaganza. Fortunately the league were able to accommodate us, and deputy fixture secretary Phil Sweet offered to travel with us.
Of course life is never straightforward is it? We had to rejig things a couple of times but the most pressing issue surrounded Sully. They’d been slated to play Pontyclun but Ponty’s Welsh Cup game the previous Saturday had been postponed. Competition rules dictate that the replay must be the next Saturday ruling them out of the hop game.
Now this is where as hop organiser you earn your corn, and where you need an excellent league secretary. So we all worked at it and we’re all grateful to all at Canton Liberal for stepping in. It all took less than 24 hours so save the hop’s opening game but make no mistake, of this had been a simple staggered kick off weekend the game would have been lost and Sully would have lost a substantial amount of money.
They’d just taken delivery of 200 programmes and their metal badges, but took it on themselves to get fresh covers and an insert printed to reflect the change of opponent. I don’t want to think about how it took them to change over the covers and staple in the inserts. Then, just to endear them to us still further they apologised that some of the staples might not be straight….
So two coaches turned up at South Road and quite honestly I didn’t even mind that the club had decided to contract out their catering. Maybe it was the views over the Bristol Channel, or it could have been the attitude of the club, but more likely it was that the ciabatta with meal balls was absolutely delicious!
Now normally when a club goes the extra mile like Sully I instantly want them to win the tie, but when their opponents have helped you out like Canton Liberal did the only thing you can do it adopt a strictly neutral stance! For the record the visitors won an entertaining game, in front of the 3rd highest crowd in the history of the South Wales Amateur/Alliance hops.
The coaches dropped off as tradition dictates at the Otley Arms then back at the university, with the improvement that they now drop off right outside our accommodation blocks. With an improvement like that it was only right and proper I stroll back down the hill and join the majority for a beer…
It was good to back.