Notes From A Small Island 4 (Anglesey)

The Island Games are a biennial multi sport festival held to encourage sporting development among tiny islands, peninsulas and archipelagos. From the initial event in the Isle of Man where 15 islands entered the event has become increasingly popular with the most recent staging being in Gotland in 2017. There were 2,500 athletes representing 23 islands across 14 sports on Sweden’s largest island.

The 18th Island Games were awarded to Gibraltar and it meant a severe logistical problem given that the peninsula’s only major sporting facility, the Victoria Stadium, would be earmarked for track and field athletics. This meant for the first time since 1989 there would be no football tournament at the Island Games, cycling and volleyball would also miss out for the first time.

The decision to omit football was particularly controversial as its one of the major and most popular of the attractions. Into the breach stepped prospective 2025 Island Games hosts, Ynys Môn (Anglesey) who offered to stage a football tournament run on similar lines to the Island Games. In addition to the hosts a further nine islands agreed to send a mans team and six would send womens squads to what was dubbed the Inter-Islands Games. An oddity of this event is Gibraltar sending a womens team to the event but being unable to field a mens team due to their membership of UEFA.

Eleven football grounds of varying sizes and facilities were selected as host venues including some from very small communities like Aberffraw FC from the tiny village of Tŷ Croes and Bro Goronwy FC from the north east coastal village of Moelfre, home to barely 1,000 inhabitants.

Some interesting tweaks on the normal rules were announced for this event. Drawn group games would be settled on penalties as a means to separate teams in the eventuality of two having identical records. Entrants were allowed to make five substitutions but in an attempt to speed up potentially ten changes per game, teams had to make them in batches up to five (eg a triple substitution then two single substitutions).

Having already enjoy games at six of the eleven host grounds I decided to baulk on the crazy early start needed to make the 11am Jersey v Orkney opener at Llangefni Town’s excellent Cae Bob Parry. Instead my first action of this tournament would be a special one as it marked the international debut of a representative team from the south Atlantic island nation of St.Helena. It’s a British Overseas Territory and incorporates the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha as well. The population of 4,500 people is one of the remotest in the world and only got a commercial airport as recently as 2017!

Cae Cynlas is a fairly basic ground with a railed off pitch and a spare dugout pressed into service as a small area of cover but it’s not needed as pre-match rain drifts off in the opposite direction. With around 50 St Helena fans present there is a good, colourful vibe to the place but the Shetlands, Island Games veterans and winners of the tournament at their own games in 2005, are in no mood to roll over for the far flung debutants. The Shetland side are limited in numbers due to injuries but are no match for St Helena, the Atlantic islanders struggling to deal with the physicality and the strong buffeting wind. The Scots win 6-1 although Ronan Legg has the honour of scoring St. Helena’s first ever international goal from the penalty spot. There are nearly 500 people watching and there is mayhem outside with cars parked everywhere, Tŷ Groes will have never seen the like before!

Sunday June 16th 2019 2pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Shetland 6 (Leask 12,17, Bradley 25, Arthur 27,85, Smith 45)
St.Helena 1 (Legg pen 36)

Att:462 (at Aberffraw FC)

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The next game is at the main stadium in the island capital of Holyhead. Intriguingly the old Holyhead Hotspur is still in decent condition despite being vacated in 2007 for the New Oval next door. Evidently the old ground is still used for local matches. The place is busy with the hosts, Ynys Môn, making their entry into the tournament with a game against another Scottish entrant, the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides). It’s a much tighter game with the hosts enjoying a larger portion of the possession but it’s the Western Islanders that silence the crowd with the opening goal on the stroke of halftime. The forecast rain duly arrives and it’s standing room only in the main stand and the covered stand, repurposed from a Stena Line gangway, it also full as over a 1,000 people try in vain to stay dry. Ynys Môn come good in the second half and while some speed off to make the tight kick off time at Cemaes Bay, the majority of the crowd at Holyhead go home happy.

Sunday June 16th 2019 5pm – Inter-Island Games Group A

Ynys Mon 2 (McGinness 60, Morris 67)
Western Isles 1 (L.Mackay 45)

Att: 1,025 (at Holyhead Hotspur FC)

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Most of the arrivals from Holyhead just about make kick off thanks to Cemaes Bay prudently opening a field adjacent to the School Lane ground for parking. The rain has now reached monsoon proportions as Channel Islanders take on Hitra, an island archipelago off the west coast of Norway.

Few Welsh clubs can have fallen as far as Cemaes Bay. Although football started in the north coast town in 1870, the current club started life in 1976 and played at a ground on the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station for much of the time, except for a short period in 1980, at a ground next to the Gadlys Hotel. The move to School Lane in 1988 coincided with a period of heavy investment as the club moved from the Anglesey League to winning the Welsh Alliance in 1993 and the Cymru Alliance in 1995. The latter resulted in an historic promotion to the Welsh Premier League. After two seasons the finance was pulled and by 2005 the club had been relegated to the Gwynedd League. After a short period in abeyance the club went full circle and rejoined the Anglesey League for the 2018/19 season.

Despite the appalling weather Alderney and Hitra put on a highly entertaining match in front of a doubtless weather effected crowd of slightly over 200. It’s a fine, if a little soggy end, to an excellent days entertainment.

Sunday June 16th 2019 7.30pm – Inter-Island Games Group B

Alderney 2 (Benfield 26, J. Concanen 67)
Hitra 4 (Kvakland 24, Jorgensen 27, Hansen 45, Johansen 74)

Att:206 (at Cemaes Bay FC)

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With the first game of day two not scheduled to 3.30pm there is plenty of time to see some of the beguiling sights of this stunning little island. From Beaumaris Castle in the east to South Stack lighthouse there really is something for everyone here. Thankfully the rain had relented but it was still very windy.

IMG_0084Cemaes Bay harbour

IMG_5859Cliff side church at Llanbadrig

IMG_5855Headland at Bull Bay

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IMG_0115Beaumaris Castle

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The afternoon game is a Bodedern Athletic’s compact Cae Tŷ Cristion ground. This club took over from the old disbanded CPD Bodedern in 2007, initially playing at Cae’r Ysgol until securing a return to Bodedern’s traditional ground at Tŷ Cristion. The new Bodedern club have risen quickly to the Welsh Alliance Division One and finished runners up to Llangefni Town this season.

It’s another tight game as Guernsey take on an injury depleted Shetland team. Guernsey take a 2-0 lead before halftime, bizarrely the fourth game running where a goal was scored in the 45th minute. Shetland pulled one back with a rebound from a saved penalty kick but it wasn’t to be for the North Sea team.

Monday June 17th 2019 3.30 pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Guernsey 2 (Marsh 21, Hall 45)
Shetland 1 (Leask 52)

Att:208 (at Bodedern Athletic FC)

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So with just a two day taste of the tournament it was a massive thumbs up to the organisers. Everything ran like clockwork and there was enough volunteers to cater for the crowds. The tournament programme was excellent and informative at £3. Only wished I could have stayed a little longer. Roll on Guernsey 2021, Orkneys 2023 and, all being well, Anglesey in 2025, they would deserve it on this showing.

Island Games Programme

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North Berks League Hop 2015

The North Berkshire League has really always been a village league with the strict ruling that member clubs must be situated within a 20 mile radius of Steventon Green, however, latterly the burgeoning reputation for the League has seen it take in various waifs and strays that have fallen on hard times following exploits at a higher level. Similarly to last year, the 2015 Groundhop commenced with an additional Friday night game at one of the few floodlit grounds in the League. Last season it was Abingdon Town that provided the venue for the additional game to the main event and this time they were the opponents for another club that had also chosen to drop out of the Hellenic League.

Friday September 18th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1

Wallingford Town (0) 0

Abingdon Town (0) 1 (Pitson 60)

Attendance: 125 (at Hithercroft Sports Park)

A very tight encounter with two very evenly matched sides looked initially as if both sides would cancel each other out particularly as both goalkeepers were in fine form. However, it was the visitors that took the points when Steve Pitson netted with aplomb when Wallingford were caught on a swift counter attack.

Hithercroft has changed considerably in recent years notably the old main stand has been replaced by the increasingly ubiquitous Arena Seating modular unit. The club have prepared well and the old double decker bus converted into a bar downstairs and an elevated viewing gallery upstairs is every bit as genial as it is quirky. A crowd of 125 isn’t bad at all considering the ground had been “hopped” in the inaugural North Berks hop and the considerable attraction of the televised England v Fiji opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.2 (Kick-off: 10.30am)

Hanney United (2) 4 (J.Bishop pen 16, 41, Woodside 77, Webster og 88)

Marcham (2) 2 (Larman 7, Dodds 24)

Attendance: 171 (at War Memorial Ground)

Hanney originally played at The Meads in West Hanney before the War Memorial Hall was built in the 1970’s. The clubs pitch was originally at the far end of the cricket field but in recent years the club has used a pitch to the right of the cricket pitch. The club put on a grand opening to the day’s events making superb use of limited facilities to make sure everyone is fed with breakfast followed by enough cake to give Mr Kipling a run for his money. The North Berks Cup is on display as well as a fascinating display of the clubs history which included winning this handsome trophy in four consecutive seasons in the 1940’s. Heady days for Hanney.

The game itself is an entertaining affair with the opponents Marcham out of the traps the quicker and looking stronger than their hosts. However, an equaliser for the hosts before half time proved pivotal and Hanney dominated the second half as Marcham seemed to run out of puff.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.3 (Kick-off: 13.30pm)

Grove Rangers (4) 4 (Pickering 2, Dix 18, Cramp 21, 23)

Benson Lions (0) 1 (Radcliffe 88)

Attendance: 154 (at Cane Lane)

Grove Rangers have a lengthy history dating back to the turn of the 20th Century and usually play on the pitch behind the clubhouse of Grove Rugby Club. With the oval ball guys also having a big match on today the football club were asked to use the “back pitch” ironically their original pitch often called Wasbrough Field. Still the unexpected change of venue gave the added bonus of the statue of a DeHavilland Venom close by which marks the runway of a wartime RAF base.

The hosts take the lead within two minutes of the start of the game and when three more quickly follow the watching crowd begin to fear for the visitors shorn of many regulars due to active service. However two half time changes, a late arriving centre back and outfield player taking over in goal from another outfield player had a steadying effect and Benson escaped further punishment. Indeed their veteran player/manager Jon Radcliffe earned a late cheer when he scored a cracking goal which was celebrated in equally fine style.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1 (Kick-off: 16.30pm)

East Hendred (0) 1 (Rowe 48)

Long Wittenham Athletic (1) 1 (Cheong 25)

Attendance: 204 (at Mill Lane)

Back into the top division for the days’ final encounter and the step up shows with both sides looking fitter and faster. Another very even encounter eschews on a good service which sloped alarming downhill in the final third of the pitch at the far end. A goalkeeper taking a goal kick could only be seen from the waist up from the pavilion end such is the camber of the pitch at that end. The match was for the James Rennie Memorial Trophy and a draw was just about the right result although the hosts missed several chances in the second half.

The club put on a great event with curry and Bolognese available as well as yet another cake stall (oh I couldn’t possibly…well ok then just a small piece). The club live up to their nickname of The Owls by having a local expert conduct a display with a collection of different owls, one of which was purported to be 36 years old. East Hendred were originally formed in 1912 but folded in 1982 due to a lack of volunteers. Fortunately they reformed in 1994 and gained promotion to the top division last season having finished runners up in Division 2. On today’s display they certainly do not look out of place in the top tier.

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The Pioneers (Treharris Athletic Western FC)

Treharris Athletic and their wonderful Athletic Ground home are veritably steeped in history. The football club were formed in 1889 and original played at a ground called Graig Berthlwyd. They were well supported drawing support from the inhabitants of the town that had sprung up around the Deep Navigation Colliery named after its owner, F.W.Harris. It was reported that an 1893 match against Cardiff City drew a “large number of spectators” to Graig Berthlwyd.

Real pioneers of the round ball game, the club were founder members of the South Wales League in 1890 and won the first two championships and truly dominated the football scene in South Wales. Sometime around 1900 Treharris moved to their new ground off Spencer Place which was christened the “Athletic Ground”. Ton Pentre provided the opposition in the opening match.

The Treharris first team competed in both the South Wales League and from 1902/03 the Rhymney Valley League before becoming one of the first clubs to compete outside of Wales. This happened in 1906 when Treharris joined the Western League. They also remained in the Rhymney Valley League which would later become the Welsh League. Crowds at the Athletic Ground would frequently top 2,000 spectators. By 1910 the club had become so strong, winning the Western League title in 1909/10, they joined the Southern League Division 2 with the likes of future Football League clubs Cardiff City, Merthyr Town and Aberdare. In April 1912 Treharris’ David Walter Davies was capped by Wales when he played against Northern Ireland at Ninian Park. Davies would later play for Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United. The club remained in the Southern League until finishing bottom of Division 2 at the end of the 1913/14 season.

Since those heady days the club has been Welsh League stalwarts but have never replicated their sole championship win in 1910/11. The whole town, let alone the club, was hit when the mine was closed in 1991 and since then the club have laboured in the lower reaches of the Welsh League. Relegation from Division Two was suffered following a bottom placed finished in 2011/12. The following season saw a wretched season for Treharris, finishing next to bottom with only Bettws beneath them. Since 2009/10 the club has been known as Treharris Athletic Western.

The Athletic Ground is truly magnificent, probably the only sizable reasonably flat area in the town. All the facilities are on one side of the ground, a small tea bar and changing room building provides a viewing balcony to augment the stunning covered terrace that has peered down over proceedings for over 100 years. Therein lies the dilemma for a club like Treharris, do they hang on to the vestiges of their glorious past or look to the future? The club has decided to move on and rather than hire the historic venue from the local council they have decided to up sticks and head to nearby Trelewis and take up residence at the Parc Taff Bargoed, vacated by the now defunct Trelewis Welfare club. With improvements underway to bring the facilities up to scratch, this historic club can look forward to a new chapter in their incredible history.

Once again this season Treharris have been hovering precariously close to the relegation zone. However, recent form has been excellent and tonight Athletic take on Newport YMCA in what is billed as the penultimate match at the historic Athletic Ground. Treharris mean business tonight with skipper Matthew Sellick opening the scoring after just 80 seconds. Second half goals from Brad Jones, Sellick again, and Aaron Caffell right at the death secures a comfortable win and another vital three points in their great escape bid.

The Athletic Ground is one of those football grounds that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. What the council will do with the site once Treharris leave is not clear, one can only hope it survives in some form. Whether the Millennium Park project will be ready for next season remains a mute point but to all intents and purpose this is the last hurrah for this ancient and evocative venue.

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Wednesday April 22nd 2015 – Welsh League Division Three

Treharris Athletic Western (1) 4 (Sellick 2, 74, B.Jones 66, Caffell 90)
Newport YMCA (0) 0
Attendance: 57 (at the Athletic Ground)

Treharris:

1. Alex Lewis, 2. Keiron Jones, 3. Alun Thomas, 4. David Mitchell, 5. Thomas Harris, 6. Brad Jones, 7. Aaron Caffell, 8. Peter Corkery, 9. Sam Wills, 10. Bleddyn House, 11. Matthew Sellick ©.

Subs: 12. Rhys Jones, 14. Christian Evans, 15. Ashley Tandy (for 3, 79 mins), 16. Callum Tandy, 17. Rhys Tandy (for 9, 62 mins).

Newport YMCA:

1. Mark Drew, 2. Lee Drew, 3. Lee Morris. 4. Alex Stewart, 5. Nathan Hardwick, 6. Alex Jenkins ©, 7. Jamie Martin, 8. Jason Lewis, 9. Nial Simmonds, 10. Tre Merrett, 11. Craig Ford.

Subs: 12. Ellis Parks, 14. Macauley Corten, 15. Mo Hassan (for 10, 31 mins), 16. Joe O’Brien (for 8, 74 mins).

Yellow Cards: Corkery (Treharris), M.Drew, Jenkins, Martin, Hassan (Newport YMCA).

Gallery

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Treharris prog

A Pilgrimage to San Mamés (Athletic Bilbao)

The Estadio San Mamés is renowned worldwide as a truly iconic sporting venue, and it is truly refreshing that Athletic Bilbao are reverentially aware of their history and heritage. But who was San Mamés? Saint Mammes was a third century Christian child martyr thrown to the lions by the Romans at Caesarea with his parents Theodotus and Rufina.

The San Mamés was opened in 1913 and will be celebrating its centenary by being pulled down in favour of the new San Mamés Barria stadium being built next to the current stadium on the site of the Bilbao International Trade Fair. Costing a reported 160 million Euros, the new edifice with have 53,000 seats and Athletic will move in to the initially three sided ground for the start of the 2013/14 season. The old San Mamés will be pulled down and then the fourth side will be constructed.

The current ground is steeped in history, substantially renovated for the 1982 World Cup by Manuel Maria Smith, it has seen some great occasions in world football. It is held in such esteem the nickname of “La Catedral” seems wholly appropriate. The statue of Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, “Pichichi” scorer of the first goal at San Mamés and a prodigious scorer in his career watches over the turf he graced with such skill. Though he had a short life, dying at the age of 30 from suspected typhus, Moreno is revered through the Basque region and the country as a whole. His nickname is given to the leading goalscorer award in the Spanish League each season and it is something of a tradition on European nights that the visiting captain lays flowers at the statue of Pichichi. It is said the gift will be rewarded with a good season and plenty of goals. The club’s rich history is admirably mapped out in the superb museum, voices and images of the past from the greats like Rafael Moreno, Iribar, Dani and Exteberria loom large over this season’s underachieving squad.

The Bilbao team that wowed Europe last season has broken down, players have left and star striker Fernando Llorente has been at loggerheads with the club all season and barely played. Their abject performance in the Europa League Group I against the likes of Lyon and Hapoel Kiryat Shmona has meant tonight’s game against Sparta Prague is meaningless, the hosts already out and the visitors safely through to the next stage.

Llorente is picked and given the captains armband, but his every touch is greeted with derision by the home crowd. “San Mamés divorces Llorente” screams El Correo the following morning. Llorente is pulled off at half-time along with Iker Muniain, Spain’s enfant terrible from their implosive Olympic football tournament campaign. Muniain, dubbed “the Spanish Messi”, having scant impression on a poor first half.

The second half is played out and it is the visitors that should have won, some profligate finishing on several occasions meaning the game ends in a drab 0-0 draw.

It is a shame that the San Mamés’ last European encounter was such poor fair, a decent and noisy crowd of 30,000 had paid a minimum of 38 Euros (unless you are a Socio) to witness the match.

The stadium empties and the famous arch of San Mamés glows in the night sky, it should survive the demolition. Unlike the ignominious demise of Wembley’s Twin Towers the arch is planned to be used as a footbridge over the Nervión, supporter’s wishes of its incorporation into the new stadium could not be accommodated but at least it will live on.

Despite a dull game, this visit will live long in the memory. Rarely have I been to a city where its football club means so much. Shutters are painted red and white, flags flutter on balconies, sun baked pennants adorn the walls of cafes and bars. This truly is more than a football club, it’s a cultural identity, Athletic are still fervently in favour of their Basque only player policy and they should be commended for their stance. Athletic is Bilbao, the blood that moves its body.

Athletic Bilbao (0)0 AC Sparta Prague (0)0

Attendance: 30,434

Atheltic:

13.Raúl Mateos; 2.Gaizka Toquero; 28.Jonás Ramalho; 6.Mikel San José; 26.Igor Martínez; 8.Ander Iturraspe; 16.Ismail López; 19.Iker Muniain; 22.Xabier Castillo; 9.Fernando Llorente(c); 36.Aymeric Laporte.

Subs: 1.Gorka Iraizoz; 3.Jon Aurtenetxe; 11.Ibai Gómez; 20.Aritz Aduriz (for 19,46 mins); 23.Borja Ekiza; 39.Erik Morán (for 9,46 mins); 40.Álvaro Peña (for 2,46 mins).

Sparta:

1.Marek Cech; 4.Ondrej Svejdík; 19.Matej Hybs; 20.Tomas Zápotocny; 22.Josef Husbauer; 16.Pavel Kaderábek; 25.Mario Holek; 24. Vlastimil Vidlicka; 8.Marek Matejovsky(c); 11.Leonard Kweuke; 17.Jiri Skalák.

Subs: 9.Bekim Balaj (for 11,82 mins); 14.Václav Kadlec (for 16,69 mins); 26.Milan Jirásek; 27.Roman Polom; 31.Tomas Vaclík; 32.Adam Janos (for 8,87 mins); 37.Peter Grajicar.

Yellow cards: Zápotocny and Kadlec (Sparta)

Gallery

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