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Saturday 30th March 2019 ko 11.00

East of Scotland League Conference C

CAMELON JUNIORS 5 (McKenzie 8 43 46 Sneddon 10 25)

EDINBURGH UNITED 1 (Auriemma 40p)

Att 356

Entry £6

Programme £2

The biggest mistake you can make round these parts is to describe Camelon as being part of Falkirk. As any local will tell you the two places are separate even if you do pass the Falkirk Wheel as you arrive, and one town does rather run into the other! But as we approached Carmuirs Park I felt more anticipation than perhaps any other ground on this year’s Scottish Hop. Oddly that was in part because I’d been here before….

Some would see the birthplace of the Scottish Hop as being East Kilbride, they were GroundhopUK’s first hosts back in 2015. But the idea was born a year or so earlier, here at Camelon. I was watching an East Region Junior game here when two Scottish hoppers told me the Lowland League were interested and gave me Jamie McQueen’s phone number. Back then Jamie was involved at Whitehill Welfare  and despite neither he, Welfare, nor the Lowland League having even thought of the idea, the hop eventually was agreed. It is, by the way, a matter of regret for me to see Welfare relegated from the Lowland League this season.

These days Jamie’s involved at Edinburgh United so it was lovely to see him and for me at least the Scottish Hop has come full circle and in a place I never thought we’d see a hop game. Now I’ll be the first the admit I didn’t see the exodus of so many of the Junior clubs to the Seniors, and I certainly never expected to see our coach bend back a bollard in the roads leading up to Carmuirs Park.

In so many ways Camelon and Carmuirs Park is the quintessential Scottish Junior club and ground. And dear reader, unlike Dunipace the previous evening, they haven’t dropped the Juniors from their title because they’ve switched to Senior football for this season. They see themselves as a Junior club in the Senior ranks and I rather took to them over it.

The club do have an interesting nickname- “The Mariners.” You’d expect like another Mariners, Grimsby the club to be on the coast but Camelon are some way inland, the nickname comes from the Forth & Clyde Canal that runs parallel to the far touchline.

Yes, Camuirs is just about every groundhoppers idea of a wonderful ground with its bright red stands and uneven terraces but I suspect that the feature that most will remember the ground for is the little “Unofficial” stand behind the goal. What makes it so special is it isn’t actually in the ground, someone has built his own personal viewing area on stilts in his back garden and seems to use it to watch every game. I wonder if the club have sold him a season ticket?

I’d wondered whether given all the upheaval the club have been through whether hosting a load of groundhoppers would be something the club and its fans would want. I’m very aware of that the clubs’ side of the compromise that is an organised hop, and the potential impact an early kickoff might have on their fans, and those of the visiting side. It’s more than handy as organiser to have someone like Jamie in the background, but after my dealings with the West Region a few years I know that some will resent playing at an odd time just to make some one-off visitors happy.

That is of course the compromise, and squaring the circle of everyone’s needs isn’t an exact science. I’d like to think adding 200-or-so on the gate, and giving the club every opportunity to make further monies via catering and merchandise by ticketing the event to give the clubs a steer on how many extra people to expect. I know there is some within the Junior and former Junior community who take a traditionalist view that games should only be played at 1.30 to 3.30 on a Saturday.

They’re entitled to their view and I do understand it, but I’d point back to that compromise and point to whether the clubs feel it was worth it. I’d take the view that 5 years of the Scottish Hop rather points to the compromise working. Perhaps the traditionalists will grow towards the idea, after all the vast majority of hoppers are traditionalists too!

From my perspective Camelon seemed to enjoy their morning. The Pie Stall queue was everpresent and the on the pitch Camelon made short work of a limited but youthful Edinburgh side. I understood Jamie’s discomfiture at the result, even if it was entirely deserved on the balance of play. But at the risk of thinking selfishly I strolled back to the car inwardly smiling at what had been achieved.

For back then when I got that message at Carmuirs that a Scottish Groundhop might be possible my immediate thought was that I’d love to take a groundhop party to a place like this. So it was a lovely treat to be able to square that circle, but best of all so many more fantastic places are now open to us to visit.

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