Groundhop 1881 – Cefn Druids AFC

Cymru Alliance
Cefn Druids AFC v Conwy Borough FC
Saturday, 16th March 2013, 3pm
The Rock
Entrance £5, Programme £2
Distance 173 miles, Attendance 92
130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (12)wJust above a lane heading north out of the village of Rhosymedre, North East Wales, sits one of the finest looking football stadia I’ve had the pleasure to visit. With a distinct lack of concrete-bowlism, it’s well built, carefully maintained and fits wonderfully into its natural environment; a hillside, beside a huge rock cliff face. Being new “The Rock” isn’t yet visible on maps but setting out, I knew it was there somewhere.
Like ancestral remains evident throughout Wales, the only pitches nearby once belonged to Druids United FC and Cefn Albion FC. Using a process of elimination; I tip-toed through the lanes – photographing them all – before entering a pristine car park, marked out with Futsal pitches. Having already tried and failed in this journey three times, finding The Rock bathed in sunshine was a truly welcoming sight.

130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (20)w

The history of Cefn Druids AFC is one of legend; the oldest unambiguously documented one in Welsh football. Without naming all the ancestors, the line started in neighbouring Cefn Mawr, in 1869, when the Thomson brothers formed Plasmadoc FC, which then became Druids FC in 1872 when assorted colliery and quarry teams were amalgamated. They were the first Welsh side to play in the FA Cup, and reached all bar one of the first eleven Welsh Cup Finals, winning six times including 1881.
130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (33)After a fallow period in their history and now under the guidance of former player Huw Griffiths, the club has started to build again and last season despite being in the second tier, Druids reached the Cup Final again. The reward was a place in The Europa League. Despite its brevity, this “best experience” is still a big talking point and, has clearly given the club new impetus to strive for success again.
130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (30)wPrior to kick off, genial Chairman Brian Mackie took time to introduce me to the club, the committed folk that run it, and a framed shirt belonging to Watford youth coach, David Hughes. Out on the pitch players were warming up for this 2nd v 3rd encounter. With only a mathematical chance of over taking Rhyl at the top, Griffiths concentrated his players on the positives; up the other end Conwy players were being instructed to “Slow it down as much as possible.”
As the game started, my Bovril and I made our way to the back of the stand. With visitors sparsely scattered and Wrecsam at home, the gate was down but, to my left vocal youths and a headless panda cheered the team on throughout. Committee members sat centre stand and to our right, fans spread along the pitch edge in front of the excellent clubhouse.
The first half was very evenly matched action but – performing fantastically under pressure – most plaudits quite rightly went to the two athletic keepers. There was a short break from the rain in the sponsors’ longue, absorbing more club history, and then it was back out to support my new favourite Welsh team
Druids came out all guns blazing, trying to batter the ball in; Conwy stood firm and hoped to find success on the break. At this point I should be naming the heroes of the hour but if anything, this game was clearly only going to be settled by a mistake.
Druids had won the previous eight games but today, any openings created by their young forwards found visiting keeper Terry McCormick (fittingly) a rock. Then just moments from time a soft free kick was floated over from the edge of the Druids box. Chris Mullock came to punch clear but fractionally before, a glancing header from Anthony Miley guided the ball inside the far post.

130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (108)w

Four hours earlier as I’d stood in the sun gawping at the ground, a man addressed me, “Lovely isn’t it!” he affirmed knowingly. Now, even with the rain and darkness coming in – despite the result – it was hard not to still feel warmed at being here. Cefn Druids is a club with a fantastically long history however you get the feeling – with the dedicated support, new ground, young manager and improving team – that they just might be about to make some new history.

130316 HGA Cefn Druids v Conwy Borough (37)w

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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
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