Date of Visit: 20th October 2018
Competition: Welsh Cup First Round
Ground Number: 44 (revisit)
- Founded: 1977
- Ground: Y Morfa, Conwy, Conwy County Borough LL32 8HA
- Colours: All tangerine with white trim
- Website: http://www.conwyboroughfc.co.uk/
- Twitter: @ConwyBoroughFC
- Highest Ever League Placing: League of Wales – 3rd [1995-96]
CONWY BOROUGH’S 2017-18 SEASON
- Welsh Alliance Division One: CHAMPIONS [Promoted]
- Welsh Cup: Round Two
- FAW Trophy: WINNERS
- Cookson Cup: WINNERS
- Mawddach Challenge Cup: Round Two
The third weekend of October was an important weekend in the Welsh football calendar, as it was scheduled to be the first round of the Welsh Cup. This is the round when all the second tier teams join the fray and compete against sides who have progressed through the qualifying rounds to get to this stage of the national cup competition. The Welsh Cup is also a competition which I absolutely adore, and thus I was incredibly eager to catch a Welsh Cup game for this weekend.
With Holywell Town also coming into the Welsh Cup at the first round stage, naturally my first option is to travel to wherever the Wellmen are playing at. Now considering your initial point of view, the first round draw had been harsh/kind to Holywell as they were drawn away against Mid Wales League leaders, Caersws. Certainly it would be fair to say that I was very, very tempted to travel down to the Recreation Ground, but considering I have already written a blog about Caersws (and bought the pin badge), and I wanted to go to a ground where I had not yet written a groundhop blog for, I was initially hesitant to venture down to southern Montgomeryshire again. The final nail in the coffin for the Caersws trip was that 94th Minute accomplice, Greg, was unable to get enough spare time off in the morning/early afternoon to get us both down there in time for kick off. Therefore a nearer fixture had to be found which would be ideal for the pair of us!
Looking at the cup fixtures, there were a number of good fixtures which peaked my interest, but ultimately I decided upon one fixture which seemed to fulfil all our restrictive criteria, and looked to be a potentially decent contest. The contest between Conwy Borough and Rhyl F.C. would be an all-Cymru Alliance affair with both sides going into the cup match with some modicum of momentum having had inspiring results the previous weekend. Rather frustratingly for me, Rhyl’s boost came at the courtesy of Holywell, when a late goal at a miserably rainy Halkyn Road ensured the visitors snatched all three points (and made the walk back to 94th Minute HQ in the pouring rain a reflective one….).
— The 94th Minute (@The94thMin) October 12, 2018
Conwy’s game would also give me the perfect chance to revisit the excellent Morfa stadium once again, and it would be my first visit to the ground in about three and a half years. The last time I was at Y Morfa was for a Cookson Cup final between Holywell Town and Llanrug United, during Holywell’s treble winning season in the 2014-15 season. On that very cold March Tuesday evening, I was absolutely gutted to see the Wellmen lose 1-2 to Llanrug despite having taken the lead (although future events that season would make up for that disappointment). Just as disappointing was that I failed to take enough decent pictures during the evening to write a proper groundhopping blog at that time, meaning Conwy was one of the few teams in the Cymru Alliance I had still yet to write a groundhop blog on.
With that anomaly just waiting to be rectified, it was therefore decided that we would be making the 30 mile journey westwards along the A55 Expressway (inevitable traffic jams permitting) and watching Conwy take on Rhyl at Y Morfa. Although it would be my first visit to the ground since spring 2015, it wouldn’t be the first occasion I had seen the Tangerines play this year. The last time I had actually watched Conwy Borough was when they played Llandyrnog United at Cae Nant in April, towards the conclusion of their successful Welsh Alliance campaign. On that occasion they won comfortably 4-1 at Dyrny. If I got a goalfest on this autumn afternoon like I got during the springtime, then this cup match was all destined to be an enthralling encounter!
- Population: 4,100
- County: Conwy County Borough
- Traditional County: Caernarfonshire
- Nearest Train Station: Conwy
Conwy is a historical castle and market town of just over 4,100 inhabitants situated centrally on the North Wales coast. Within the county borough that bears its name, the town is positioned on the western bank of the estuary of the Afon Conwy (English: River Conwy). The settlement of Llandudno Junction sits directly opposite on the eastern bank of the river, whilst the river itself flows out into the Irish Sea just to the north of the town. Historically spelt as the Anglicised name of ‘Conway‘, the town’s name naturally originates from the adjacent river. The name ‘Conwy‘ derives from the old Welsh words ‘cyn‘ (English: ‘chief‘) and ‘gwy‘ (English: ‘water’), with the river being originally called the ‘Cynwy‘.
Conwy has superb infrastructural links for the locality with the main North Welsh artery of the A55 Expressway passing just to the north and east of the town (going under the Afon Conwy by tunnel). Whilst the North Wales Coast railway line, that connects Holyhead to Chester, runs through the town and it has a train station located within the town walls. Finally the town is linked to the other riverbank through a causeway and a number of famous bridges (that will be mentioned further down) that span the river that connects Conwy to the north-south A470 trunk road, as well as the rest of the Dyffryn Conwy / Conwy Valley.
The town of Conwy’s foundations are linked with its most obvious and famous landmark, the imposing fortress of Conwy Castle. The castle was constructed between 1283 and 1289, as part of the ring of fortifications built by the invading English King Edward I, to subjugate the local Welsh populace. In conjunction with the imposing fort, 1,3km (0,81 mile) long town walls were also constructed at the same time as the fort, to form part of an integrated system of defence alongside Conwy Castle. Initially the labourers involved in constructing the castle were housed within the walled area, although afterwards the English Crown encouraged immigrants from England to settle within the town walls to try and establish a growing English presence within the area – a common practice for other such ‘boroughs’ in North Wales, such as Caernarfon and Flint.
Initially the location was occupied by Aberconwy Abbey, a Cistercian monastery which was favoured by the Welsh princes, however after it was captured in 1283, Edward decided to move the abbey’s location eight miles up the Conwy Valley to a new site at Maenan. In its place, the castle and was constructed on the former abbey’s site – an obvious symbolic act to demonstrate English hegemony of the area by building over such a high-stature native Welsh site. The castle’s location was also a vitally strategic one as it controlled an important crossing point over the Afon Conwy, as well as trade between coastal and inland areas of the Dyffryn Conwy and North Wales as a whole.
The castle and town has seen plenty of action during its history. In 1294, Edward I was besieged inside Conwy by a Welsh insurrection lead by Madog ap Llywelyn. The castle’s strategic position beside the river ensured that the English could be supplied by sea during the siege (something which was purposely planned by the English when constructing new castles and forts) before reinforcements relieved the siege in February 1295. The castle was then used as a refuge by Richard II in 1399, escaping from the forces of his rival Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV).
Finally the castle was captured in 1401 during the Welsh War of Independence, which was led by Owain Glyndwr. It would be Glyndwr’s cousins, Rhys and Gwilym ap Tudur, who seized the fortress whilst posing as carpenters, whilst other Welsh forces attacked and captured the rest of the walled town. The ap Tudur brothers held out for three months before they negotiated a surrender, and were given a royal pardon by Henry IV.
During the War of the Three Kingdoms, Conwy Castle was taken charge by the Archbishop of York, in favour of Charles I’s Royalist forces. However a bitter dispute between the Archbishop and the appointed governor of the castle, Sir John Owen, meant the Archbishop defected to the Parliamentarian forces and the town fell to Parliament in August 1646. After the Civil War, the victorious Parliamentarians ordered the castle to be slighted in 1655 and put beyond military usage for good. After the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the owner of the castle, the Earl of Conway, deciding to strip away and sell off the remaining iron and lead from the castle, thus turning the once mighty citadel into a ruin.
By the end of the eighteenth century, Conwy was becoming a visitor attraction with visitors coming to the town to see the now considered picturesque ruined castle. The ruins enticed numerous artists of the age to visit the town and create paintings of the castle, with the displayed paintings encouraging further waves of tourists to come throughout the following decades.
As a result, numerous bridges were built across the River Conwy to accommodate the ever increasing tourists. Firstly a 99,5 metre-long suspension bridge was built between 1822-26 by infrastructural engineering genius, Thomas Telford, who designed the bridge to match the adjacent castle with its castellated towers on either side of the bridge. The bridge was the main road into Conwy before it was superseded by a new parallel road bridge that was built in 1958. Today the bridge is owned by the National Trust, and is now only open to pedestrians.
Secondly a railway bridge was constructed in 1848 by Robert Stephenson, which carried the North Wales Coast rail line to Conwy and beyond. Again the pylon towers at either end of the wrought iron tubular bridge was stylized to compliment the castle, designed as barbicans that were complete with crenellated turrets and arrow slits. The bridge is still in usage and continues to carry the North Wales Coast Line over the river, with visitors able to stop off at Conwy train station, situated within the town’s walls and within walking distance of the castle.
Today the castle and town walls are now managed and maintained by CADW, a Welsh governmental organisation that maintains all historical and heritage sites within Wales (including a vast majority of the other ruined castles of North Wales). The castle is open to visitors throughout the whole year with CADW charging a small entry fee into the castle. There are normally seasonal events organised by CADW within the castle throughout the year which help promote the history of the castle and the local area, and boost tourist numbers to visit Conwy.
Today the town is a scenic market town which heavily relies on the tourist industry, with the castle and town walls being the obvious attractions to potential visitors. In addition its close proximity to the Snowdonia National Park, and the coastal towns of North Wales makes it an ideal base from which to explore North Wales. However there are other locations within Conwy which are of interest to visiting tourists. One such visitor attractions is ‘The Quay House’ or officially the ‘Smallest House in Great Britain’ that is located down by the beautiful riverside area, complete with its iconic red façade and guide dressed in traditional Welsh clothing.
The house was created in the sixteenth century and has a minuscule floor area of just 3,05 metres by 1,8 metres (10.0 foot by 5.9 foot). The house remained in usage until 1900, when the council declared the house was ‘unfit for human habitation’ and forced the then tenant, an unfortunate 6-foot-3-inch fisherman named Robert Jones, to leave the property for more spacious property. Visitors are able to step inside the house for a small entrance fee and explore both stories of the house (the top floor just by peering into it via a ladder) as well as experiencing the cramped conditions residents faced.
- 3 x Welsh Alliance League Winners
- 2 x FAW Trophy Winners
- 2 x Welsh Cup Semi-Finalists
- 1 x Cymru Alliance League Cup Winners
- 2 x Cookson Cup Winners
- 1 x UEFA Intertoto Cup Participants
- Founding Members of the League of Wales / Welsh Premier League
- Founding Members of the Cymru Alliance
- Founding Members of the Welsh Alliance League
Football has been played in the town of Conwy since the 1870’s. Although following the demise of the historic Borough United (as mentioned in the Llandudno Junction blog found here) in 1967, there was a distinct lack of higher league teams in the Conwy area throughout the majority of the 1970’s. However that issue was rectified when the current Conwy team was founded in 1977 when two Vale of Conwy League teams, Conwy Town and Conwy Royal British Legion, amalgamated to create Conwy United. The newly formed Conwy United subsequently were elected into the Welsh League (North), and would become founding members of the Welsh Alliance League, which would spring forth from the defunct Welsh League (North) in 1984.
Conwy United’s first piece of silverware arrived during the 1981-82 season, when they won the Welsh Intermediate Cup (now the FAW Trophy) by beating fellow Gwynedd side Blaenau Ffestiniog by a scoreline of 1-0. They would also achieve success in the Welsh Alliance during the mid-1980’s when they won back-to-back titles in 1985 (winning the debut season of the Welsh Alliance League) and 1986. During their fifty-eight league games played in the two seasons, Conwy would win forty-two of them, losing just seven of them, and would score 107 goals during the 1984-85 season. Alas for the remainder of the decade, Conwy would continually finish in a mid-table position and not achieve the heights of the mid-80’s.
For the 1990-91 season, Conwy would become founding members of the newly created Cymru Alliance (now called by the sponsored name of the ‘Huws Gray Alliance’), which would be the highest league in northern Welsh football. They would spend two seasons competing in the Cymru Alliance, achieving two respectable fifth place finishes during their tenure in the league. As a result of their lofty position within the Cymru Alliance, they were invited to join the newly created national ‘League of Wales’, which they duly accepted and became founding members of the first national football division. In their first season in the League of Wales, they would finish in a solid seventh position, before a couple of mid-table finishes followed.
Conwy’s zenith would be reached in the 1995-96 season, when they would encounter their best ever season in their short history. Managed by John Hulse, and being helped with the goalscoring prowess of Ken McKenna, who would score a record 49 goals during the season, the Tangerines achieved a lofty league finish of third place in the league. This high finish was enough to see Conwy United compete in the now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup – the first time since Borough United in the 1960’s that European football had been achieved by a club from the area.
During the initial group stage, they played against Charleroi (Belgium) and SV Ried (Austria) at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, and travelled to play Zaglebie Lubin in Poland and Silkeborg in Denmark. Unfortunately Conwy failed to progress beyond the group stage, but they produced a good performance in their debut European campaign, with highlights being the goalless draw against Charleroi, and a battling 1-2 display against SV Ried.
Even though Conwy were unable to match their achievements of the 1995-96 season in the League of Wales, three solid top half finishes confirmed their status as an established top flight team. In conjunction, they reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup during this period. Unfortunately for the Tangerines, they lost on both occasions to the only goal of the game, with each game played at the neutral venue of Latham Park – losing to Barry Town in 1997 and Carmarthen Town in 1999. Finally Conwy’s high league placements earned them an invitation to the short-lived FAW Premier Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals in the 1997-98 campaign (losing 0-4 to Cardiff City at Ninian Park), and failed to get out of the group stage in the 1999-2000 competition.
Alas the turn of the new millennium would signal the start of Conwy United’s sad fall from grace. The numerous seasons maintaining their top-flight status had proved far too costly to Conwy’s owners and the financial burden finally took its toll on the club. Unable to maintain past players and considerable cost-cutting measures naturally had a negative effect on the pitch. Sadly Conwy would finish the 1999-2000 season in seventeenth place and get relegated from the League of Wales. It was expected that Conwy would rejoin Cymru Alliance (the second tier in the Welsh football pyramid) for the 2000-01 season, but financial constraints were so tough on Conwy that they made the tough decision to relegate themselves down a further step in the pyramid. Therefore after twenty years away, Conwy would consolidate themselves back in the more-localised Welsh Alliance League.
Conwy United would spend the next ten seasons consolidating themselves in the Welsh Alliance. During this decade in the third tier, their best league placing was a runners-up spot in the 2001-02 season, although they would finish bottom of the table the following season. The Tangerines would also have some good cup runs, becoming Cookson Cup finalists in 2002 and again in 2005 (losing 3-4 to Bethesda). They would finally taste Cookson Cup success in 2010, when under the management duo of Barry Jones and Keith Tansley, they managed an late victory over local rivals Llandudno Junction at Llandudno’s Parc Maesdu. It would be Matty Bennett’s extra time penalty that would ultimately be the deciding factor in the final.
It would be following season, the 2010-11 season, when Conwy were finally able to rise back up the football ladder when they won the Welsh Alliance League. Their league performance was vastly aided by the goals from their young star forward Toby Jones (now shining for Llandudno F.C. in the Welsh Premier League), who would score forty plus goals from the season. From their thirty game season, they won twenty-five games, scored eighty-nine goals and earned seventy-seven points (from a maximum of ninety points available).
They would also reach the final of the FAW Trophy that season, where they faced their Welsh Alliance title rivals Holywell Town at Rhyl’s Belle Vue Stadium. Leading two-nil with only one minute of regulation time plus injury time to play, two late penalties from Steve Thomas (also now playing for Llandudno F.C.) and a ninety-fourth minute winner from Tony Hogan (who had scored an own goal for Conwy’s second goal) ensured the FAW Trophy was snatched from Conwy’s hands in the dying seconds and made its way to Halkyn Road instead (and would inspire the name of a certain groundhopping blog also……).
Conwy’s first season back in the Cymru Alliance got off to a flyer, winning their first four games back in the second tier. However their form dramatically dropped throughout the season, and with a change in management, the club fought back to achieve a final league position of tenth place. The 2011-12 season would also be the final season of Conwy United, as for the start of the 2012-13 season, the club changed their name to the current moniker of ‘Conwy Borough’.
The name change brought in a new mentality for the club, with Chris Herbert being appointed as manager and restructuring the club to become title challengers. In their first season as ‘Borough’, Conwy would finish an impressive third place in the league, and would also win the Cymru Alliance League Cup for the first time, by beating Caersws in the final on penalties. Conwy’s league success continued into the following season, as the Tangerines finished in second place at the end of the 2013-14 season. As well as great performances on the pitch in 2014, that year would also see Conwy expand and improve their facilities at Y Morfa, as well as open up a brand new clubhouse building to bring extra finances into the club.
After the high of the 2013-14 season, Conwy were not able to match such lofty aspirations again after being hampered by poor starts and mid-season managerial changes in the two following seasons. Despite these changes, both teams experienced the “new manager bounce” to recover enough from their poor starts to earn themselves an eleventh place finish in both seasons. However it would be at the end of the 2015-16 season which would also see a change right at the top of the club’s organisation. Chairman Geoff Cartwright and Vice-Chairman Darren Cartwright, who had invested into Conwy’s facilities and team, both resigned from the board due to personal commitments. It also seen the appointment of the well-respected manager Gareth “Perry” Thomas as the first team manager for the start of the 2016-17 season.
Gareth Thomas’ first season would prove to be a hugely disappointing campaign for the Tangerines, as they once again suffered a poor start to the season. Sadly for Conwy, they were incapable to conduct a third ‘great escape’ in a very competitive Cymru Alliance league and would encounter relegation back to the Welsh Alliance. Nevertheless their exile away from the second tier would be a very brief one as they would return back to the Cymru Alliance in superb fashion by achieving a historical season last season.
In the 2017-18 season, Conwy Borough achieved an historical treble winning season by winning the Welsh Alliance League, FAW Trophy and Cookson Cup. They would win their third Welsh Alliance title by a margin of three points ahead of nearest title challenger, Llangefni Town, after winning twenty and drawing four of their twenty-eight game season. The Cookson Cup was claimed by beating Barmouth & Dyffryn United 3-0, whilst their long awaited second FAW Trophy was finally earned by beating Welsh National League side Rhos Aelwyd 4-1 at Airbus UK Broughton’s Airfield ground.
Conwy Borough’s road to the 2017-18 FAW Trophy:
- R2: Holyhead Town (h) 4 – 3 [aet]
- R3: Coedpoeth United (a) 2 – 7
- R4: Cefn Albion (h) 2 – 1
- R5: Llanfair United (h) 5 – 4 [aet]
- QF: Grange Albion (h) 7 – 1
- SF: Penydarren BGC (n) 0 – 3
- F: Rhos Aelwyd (n) 4 – 1
Conwy Borough’s last four competitive games:
- Tue 25th Sept: Bangor City (a) 0 – 1
- Sat 29th Sept: Flint Town United (a) 1 – 1
- Sat 6th Oct: Porthmadog (a) 0 – 2 [Cymru Alliance League Cup]
- Sat 13th Oct: Porthmadog (h) 2 – 2
Conwy Borough had had a decent start to their first season back in the Cymru Alliance, finding themselves in sixth place with fifteen points from ten league fixtures played, and only three points away from Flint Town United, who were in second position.
After starting the league campaign with two losses to Guilsfield and Airbus UK Broughton, Conwy enjoyed an excellent spell through late August and September when they went on a six game unbeaten streak in all competitions. The 4-1 victory over Denbigh Town at Y Morfa at the end of August, and the 4-0 win over Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in the Huws Gray Cup being the most impressive victories during that period of good form.
However since mid-September, Gareth Thomas’ side have not managed to win a game and are currently on a four game winless streak. A loss to Bangor City was followed by an impressive and hard-fought 1-1 draw away at Flint, with Dean Seager getting the Borough goal in the first half. This was followed by two games against the inform Porthmadog, firstly losing in the second round of the Huws Gray Cup (Cymru Alliance League Cup) at Y Traeth before earning themselves a very creditable draw in the opposite fixture in the league. Despite having Iolo Hughes sent off early in the first half, goals from Gerwyn Jones and late equiliser from Corrig McGonigle ensured 10 man Borough would snatch a very welcome point.
The late equaliser in their previous game would undoubtedly provide Conwy with a massive boost to momentum and confidence for this upcoming Welsh Cup game. In addition, they knew they could beat their opponents as they had beaten Rhyl in the previous month’s league fixture (the last time they had achieved a victory in all competitions). A nineteenth minute goal from Adam Whitlock and a goal from Dean Seager at the very start of the second half ensured the Tangerines would take all three points on that occasion. Everyone connected with Conwy were hoping for a repeat of that scoreline for this upcoming cup fixture!
Rhyl’s last four competitive games:
- Tue 25th Sept: Flint Town United (h) 0 – 2
- Sat 29th Sept: Airbus UK Broughton (h) 0 – 3
- Tue 2nd Oct: Llandudno FC (h) 3 – 5 [Nathaniel MG Cup]
- Fri 12th Oct: Holywell Town (a) 3 – 2
Approaching this all-Cymru Alliance Welsh Cup fixture, Rhyl F.C. were positioned below their hosts in eleventh position in the table, having earned thirteen points from their ten league games so far this season and two points fewer than their opponents.
The league campaign under new management team of Director of Football, Eddie Maurice-Jones (who arrived from surprise runners-up Denbigh Town in the summer) and First Team Manager Gareth Wilson (who managed rivals Prestatyn Town last season), started disappointingly after losing to newly promoted side Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant 0-1 in the opening fixture of the season. Although their form soon improved when they won four of their next five games in all competitions, as well as drawing against local rivals Prestatyn Town 1-1. The shock 4-2 victory over Welsh Premier League side, Caernarfon Town, in the first round of the Nathaniel MG Cup (Welsh League Cup) being the biggest highlight during this period.
Sadly September would become a nightmare month for Maurice-Jones, Wilson and their team losing five consecutive games in all competitions during the month of September. The slump would start at a disappointing 1-3 loss away at Maurice-Jones’ former side, Gresford Athletic, whilst further defeats to Conwy Borough, Flint Town United and runaway leaders, Airbus UK Broughton in the league, as well as getting knocked out of the Cymru Alliance League Cup by Denbigh Town added to their ever-increasing woes.
October started no better for Rhyl as they were knocked out of the Nathaniel MG Cup by Llandudno F.C., despite a spirited performance from the Lilywhites at Belle Vue. Goals from Mike Pritchard, James Murphy and an own goal from Llandudno’s Ieuan Hewitt sadly were not enough to ensure the 2009 Welsh Premier League champions progressed to the next round of the competition.
However in their previous match, they finally managed to stop their win-less run by earning a hard-fought victory away at struggling Holywell Town. With Storm Callum battering Halkyn Road (and making a certain groundhopper very wet from the relentless, diagonal rain) it would be the hosts who would take the lead through a Steve Lewis penalty. Liam Smith leveled the scores up just before half-time, before an early second half free-kick from James Murphy gave Rhyl the lead. A few minutes later and former Prestatyn player, Zebb Edwards, bundled in a Wellmen equiliser, much to the delight of myself and the large home crowd. Just when it seemed the game would peter-out into a fair score draw, a Ben Nash goal in the first minute of injury time ensured the Lilywhites would grab all three points, their first since early September, and give them an almighty boost in confidence coming into the cup game.
Y MORFA GROUNDHOP
- Distance Travelled: 30 miles
- Travel Time: 40 minutes
- Entrance: £5.00
- Programme: £2.00
- Hamburger: £3.50
- Pint of Beer: £3.70
- Pin Badge: £2.00
- Raffle Ticket: £1.00
Greg and I left 94th Minute HQ at about 1pm and headed westwards along the A55 expressway towards Conwy. Thankfully (and rather surprisingly for the A55 on a Saturday afternoon) the traffic flow was fairly straightforward with no hold-ups or traffic jams encountered along our journey on the dual carriageway. As a result, we managed to arrive at the ground at about 1:40pm, 50 mins before kick off. Conwy Borough’s ground is located in the industrial estate situated to the north-west of the town, and is just off Junction 17 of the A55. Ultimately I would advise using the Conwy Tunnel and come off at that junction rather than taking the Conwy junction and coming through Conwy itself (unless you wish to visit the town beforehand) as it is much quicker and direct to get to the ground.
When we reached the ground we parked up in the large car park positioned beside the ground, and right next to the turnstiles. Even at this early point prior to the match, the car park was almost full with parked cars! Thankfully we did manage to find a space at the far end of the car park with the smallness of Greg’s car helping in that regard as it was a tight space to park in (…it’s not the size that matters….). It is worth noting that the car park does fill up on every matchday, but street parking is readily available along the road that leads to the ground.
Entrance at the turnstiles cost £5 each, whilst I also bought the accompanying match programme for £2. Although it was more expensive than the majority of programmes that are produced within Welsh football, you are certainly paying for a top quality production. I found to be an excellent publication with all the inside pages printed in colour and on top quality sheen paper – certainly one of the highest quality of programme I have come across this side of the Welsh-English border. As you would imagine from a decent publication, there were lots of information and data on both teams, as well as all the usual information like Conwy’s past results, upcoming fixtures, league tables etc.
Whilst chatting with the guys at the turnstiles, I also managed to buy the last pin badge available at the gate for £2.00 (sorry if you wanted one on the day also). A good price for a pin badge and a welcome addition to the constantly growing collection. The lads on the entrance also complimented my Spirit of 56 pin badge that was attached onto my flat cap – something I had bought the previous weekend at The Beautiful Game football shop in Prestatyn. It’s fair to say, I do love a good football pin badge!
Before we ventured into the ground, I also bought a half-time raffle ticket to potentially win myself a bottle of white wine (SPOILER: I didn’t win and the raffle winless streak continues unabated). Curiously whilst this transaction was taking place, Cher’s late 1990’s disco track “Strong Enough” was pumping out the speaker system at a surprisingly loud volume. Both myself and Greg had to chuckle at the absurdity of song that was chosen to play before a Welsh Cup game – clearly Cher is still massive in the Dyffryn Conwy haha! What absolute scenes for a groundhop!
Y Morfa (English: The Salt-marsh) ground is an incredibly impressive venue for North Welsh football, and is unsurprisingly used for a number of regional cup finals every season. The ground itself wouldn’t look out of place in the Welsh Premier League, let alone the Cymru Alliance, and it has an old-school, traditional feel to the place (very much like Caernarfon Town’s Oval ground does) which I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. A lot of today’s ground are very similar or carbon copies of others, but the Morfa is a unique venue and has an excellent atmosphere.
There are covered stands on three sides of the pitch, with the main covered stand situated in the middle third of the pitch, on the railway side of the pitch. This is sandwiched between uncovered concrete terracing that occupy the end thirds of the railway side of the ground. On the opposite side is a smaller covered stand which runs the length of one half of the pitch, whilst the other half does not have a stand present. In between are the concrete dugouts which provide a slightly elevated view for the managers and substitutes.
Another long covered stand is located at the river end of the ground, with plenty of plastic seating for supporters, and a splendid piece of colourful graffiti-style artwork painted onto the back wall reminding everyone they were indeed in Conwy. At the opposite end (the entrance end) of the pitch was the extensive clubhouse, changing rooms and snack bar. As you would expect for such a high quality of ground, concrete paths surrounded the pitch with permanent barriers separating the playing surface from the supporters area, whilst permanent floodlights were present – again another reason why it is the most sort-after venue for regional cup finals, which are often played in midweek evenings.
As we had plenty of time to spare before kick-off, we headed into the massive clubhouse where we found the other supporters had also congregated towards. I found the large clubhouse to be a very impressive set up with plenty of room for supporters and lots of tables and chairs dotted around. In addition there was a pool table present, as well as a large television attached to the far wall, and a large bar situated in one of the corners. I noticed there was a plaque fixed upon the wall proudly stating it was opened by then Wales manager, Chris Coleman. In all fairness to Cookie, he did a hell of a lot for Welsh league football during his tenure as international manager!
As with many clubs who have big clubhouses, it has been designed to be multi-purpose so it can be rented out in the evenings for social or business functions, and bring more income into the club’s coffers. So if you are in the Conwy area and looking for a venue to host a party/funtion/etc, take a look at Y Morfa’s clubhouse – you’ll be impressed with it like I was!
As we waited by the bar, I spotted that the three trophies that Conwy won from last season (the Welsh Alliance League, Cookson Cup and FAW Trophy) were displayed on the top of the bar, along with the respective winners’ medals draped over them. Firstly I was surprised to see them out in the open and not locked away behind a protective trophy cabinet, and secondly I was astonished to see how tall the trophies were up close. Finally I was impressed by the craftmanship and etching that was done on the metallic material for all three trophies – they oozed quality and success! Ideal for a football trophy really…
I’ll be honest at this point, I was massively tempted to just lift up the FAW Trophy to feel both the mass of the silverware but to just touch a trophy that I have buckets of affection and very good memories for. Subsequently I resisted the desperate urge to lift the cup and left it well alone. I didn’t fancy getting shouted at by the barmaid for touching the trophy and/or risking dropping the trophy if it was in my grasp (in fairness I wouldn’t have been the first person from Holywell to have dropped that trophy, but I’ll say no more on that subject…).
Considering I wasn’t driving for this groundhop, I took full advantage of it and bought myself a pint of Carlsberg Export for £3.70 from the bar. It certainly seemed a bit pricey for a pint, especially as I usually go for a pint of real ale or bitter which tend to better value for money, but in fairness it was a nice pint of beer which came in a fancy Export glass, and it went down a treat. After talking about wanting homemade cake and coffee in my previous blog at Llanrwst, I’m sure the other groundhoppers would be proud that I am talking about the price of beers this time around haha.
After waiting in the clubhouse for a while, and seeing it fill up with supporters as kick-off approached nearer and nearer, we both decided to get something from the snack bar adjoining the clubhouse. As with all decent snack bars, it had all the expected hot and cold food and drink options available and I was certainly spoiled for choice when it came to deciding what to have off the menu. Despite being tempted by a classic chip bap or a selection of pies being kept warm in the pie oven, I selected a hamburger with a garnish of onions for a price of £3.50, whilst Greg had a cheeseburger for £3.70.
It may seem that those prices are a little bit steep in comparison with other football grounds, but in all fairness it was an excellent quality burger. Unlike some slim, gristly servings I have ate in the past, this was a good thick chunk of top quality beef in between a sturdy bun. Greg justified the cost by saying, “you’re paying for the quality of the burger there!“. I couldn’t argue with that statement, and with an addition of burger sauce on top of the wedge of burger, it was a very tasty pre-match snack.
At this point, the person in charge of the pre-match music came up trumps once again and delighted me with their curious selection. With only minutes until kick-off was scheduled and both sides seemed prepared to walk out onto the pitch, the club’s DJ decided to put on Kate Bush’s 1978 iconic track “Wuthering Heights” at a loud volume. It is certainly the first time I have heard that song at a ground, and it may not have been my choice to ‘pump up the crowd’ before kick-off, but it encourage some people around me to sing the chorus. I guess it had the desired effect ha!
With the musical exploits of Heathcliff and Catherine from Bush’s debut single filling the atmosphere of the venue, and being the unexpected soundtrack to the start of this cup fixture, the officials lead both teams out from the changing rooms and onto the lusciously green pitch for this Welsh Cup game. Conwy Borough were decked out in their home strip of all tangerine with white trim, whilst Rhyl were in their away strip of all green with a lime green trim.
The weather conditions for the game were excellent for a late October afternoon on the North Welsh coast with the warming sun making a surprising yet welcome appearance and very few clouds drifting in the radiantly blue sky. The temperature was also surprisingly high for this time of the year, and with no chilling wind present, meant I could get away with just wearing a jumper and not requiring a coat. I was certainly aware that it may be the last time I would get away without wearing a coat this year, and the remainder of this season possibly.
In possession of my chunky yet tasty hamburger in one hand, and the match programme in the other, we both sat down on the concrete terracing between the main stand and clubhouse (the Rhyl supporters occupying the bank of terracing on the other side of the main stand) and hoped for an afternoon of excellent cup action. A train on the North Wales Coast Line, situated behind the main stand, trundled past the ground just as the sides were about to start. It left me wondering which team would be chugging their way into the second round, and whose journey would be terminated at this point on the line? I then recognised that it was a god-awful analogy, and thus resigned myself to just appreciate the upcoming cup game whilst continuing to readily devour the meaty slab of hamburger in my hand as the match finally kicked-off.
The Rhyl supporters situated on the other terracing (who were singing loudly in support of their team for the majority of the first half) would have been pleased with the way their team started in the first half, especially how the Lilywhites passed the ball around in midfield. Within ten minutes of the game starting, Aaron Hassall had set up Barry Torrence for the first decent chance of the cup tie, but the visiting striker agonisingly dragged his effort wide of the post.
Fortunately for the forward, he would be heavily involved in the opening goal which occurred roughly ten minutes after his first chance. A long ball was fired towards his direction as he was unmarked near the back post. He managed to break clear and drive his low shot across goal towards the bottom corner. His effort beat Conwy keeper Keighan Jones, although looked as if it might just drift wide of the post, but it was intercepted by defender Gerwyn Jones. Alas for the sliding home defender, his attempt to clear the ball away went very awry as his momentum meant that instead of clearing away the danger, he deflected the low shot backwards and into the back of his own net to give Rhyl a somewhat deserved lead.
Conwy Borough 0 – 1 Rhyl F.C.
Throughout the first half both sides naturally had chances to add to the scoreline. Rhyl’s Mike Pritchard and Kristan Pierce both went close with their opportunities, whilst Conwy’s lethal striker, Corrig McGonigle, could have levelled things up with about five minutes remaining of the half and he was put through on a one-on-one situation with Rhyl’s keeper Rory Crowther. In this tussle, it would be the keeper who would triumph as he managed to successfully block McGonigle’s low effort to maintain his clean sheet.
With very little time remaining in the half, both teams had further opportunities to change the scoreline before the break. Firstly a dangerous looking free kick on the edge of the Rhyl penalty area from Conwy was just zipped wide of the left post. This was followed by an excellent James Murphy half volley from the edge of the area that looped over the Conwy keeper and looked to be dropping into the net. However Murphy’s effort could only clip the top of the bar, but it provoked an “oooh” response from the crowd who also thought it was going to cross over the goal line.
Murphy’s effort would be the final effort of the half, and so it would be the visiting team who would return to the changing rooms with the slim advantage in the cup tie.
HALF TIME: CONWY BOROUGH 0 – 1 RHYL F.C.
At the start of the half time interval, just as the players were trudged back into the changing rooms, and the supporters back into the clubhouse for another pint of Carlsberg Export (presumably), the person in charge of the music entertainment pulled out another blinder when they played Whitesnake’s 80’s rock ballad “Here I Go Again” out of the speaker system. You cannot beat a bit of 80’s rock during a cup match!!
Whilst we were enjoying our half-time drinks in the clubhouse, a group of fellow drinkers had circled around a heated argument that had broken out between a couple of supporters by the bar. It looked as if it may ratchet-up towards some fisticuffs, but in the end, it was all raised voices and drunken posturing, and nothing much more. One of the Conwy volunteers, clad in an orange high-visibility bib, did have to step in to break the tension up, but by that point both men went their separate ways. To be honest, it was all a bit cringe-worthy really but added some “entertainment” during the break.
For the second half, we returned back to our spot on the concrete terracing but this time watched the game with another pint of Export in our hands, albeit in a plastic cup.
The second half started perfectly for Rhyl, and the supporters who had congregated around the clubhouse end of the ground (the end Rhyl were attacking towards) were soon celebrating another Rhyl goal, and yet again it would be another Conwy player who scored it. Mike Pritchard attempted to catch out Keighan Jones in goal, who had strayed forward of his goal-line, by sending a looping shot from the right flank over the keeper’s head and towards goal. Fortunately for the home keeper, the ball managed to clip the bottom of the crossbar and deflected the ball downwards. Unfortunately in his quest to recover the ball, the retreating goalie managed to get in the way of the downward, ricocheted ball, which subsequently rebounded off his shoulder and into the back of the net.
Conwy Borough 0 – 2 Rhyl F.C.
In his frustration from his bad luck, he continued his misfortune by blasting the ball out of the net but accidentally striking the official square on the back of the head, which provoked a natural “ooooh” from the crowd. Everyone was thinking his petulance may result in a yellow card or even possible dismissal. Thankfully for the number one, he only got a stern talking to from the official and not cautioned for his spate of brief despair.
However the spirits of Jones and the home supporters would soon be lifted as within a minute of conceding a goal, they were soon celebrating a Conwy strike. A darting run down the left and a low squared ball found Connor Harwood in space just inside the area. The player had just enough time to break free of his marker and strike low across the goal and successfully nestling the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. It was game back on!
Conwy Borough 1 – 2 Rhyl F.C.
The goal provided an uplift to the home team and charged up the atmosphere within the ground as the game was very much on a knife-edge and could potentially go either way. Conwy maintained more of the ball possession throughout the majority of the second half, continuously trying to find an opening to level the scores up. However the Rhyl defence maintained their sturdiness under constant pressure and restricted Conwy to half-chances, which Rory Crowther in the Rhyl goal could comfortably deal with.
Within the final quarter of an hour, Rhyl could and should have ended the contest when excellent work by James Murphy enabled Mike Pritchard to venture unhindered down the left wing. The winger was able to curl a dangerous looking cross into the six yard box which bamboozled Keighan Jones, but also Barry Torrence who had zipped towards goal. The visiting striker failing to divert the cross into the net from close range, provoking the despairing groans of the travelling support.
Both sides continued to threaten their opponent’s respective goal through the back end of the second half, although with the time remaining reducing rapidly, it was looking as Conwy would succumb to their fate and Rhyl had done enough. However deep into injury time, the Tangerines had a final chance to find an equaliser and send the game into extra time when they were awarded a free kick deep in Rhyl’s half. Desperation was apparent as the keeper advanced forward into the bustling crowd within Rhyl’s penalty area. Sadly for the home side, there would be no ‘Jimmy Glass moment’ as the long delivery was hit too hard and Crowther easily claimed the ball.
That would be the final action of the second half and the game, with the official blowing for full time a few moments later. Despite a spirited effort in the second half from the hosts, it would be Rhyl who would be progressing to the next round, much to the delight of the travelling support.
FULL TIME: CONWY BOROUGH 1 – 2 RHYL F.C.
POST MATCH & CONCLUSION
After Rhyl’s victory over Conwy Borough and earning their place in the second round, their reward was a draw against Caersws in the next stage of the Welsh Cup. As you might have guessed, the Bluebirds overcame a 0-2 deficit to beat my beloved Holywell Town 3-2 after extra time….I’m not crying, I’ve just got dirt in my eyes….. 😦
Post-game we decided to pop into The Kinmel Arms in the village of Saint George (which is just located off the A55 Expressway) for quick drink before venturing back home. I had never been there before but found it to be a really nice rural pub and hotel with a calming ambience. According to Greg, they make very nice meals throughout the day there also, as well as being a great venue for afternoon tea. Undoubtedly, I will have to return there in the near future to have some lunch and a couple more drinks.
On this brief occasion I chose to drink a pint of Abbey Red ruby ale, which is produced by the local Flintshire brewery, Facer’s. Considering the pump label for the ale had a picture of Basingwerk Abbey on it, I had to give it a try! Anyway I found Abbey Red to be a very nice, smooth ale and I would have happily bought another but time constraints were against us and we had to travel back home. Will keep an eye out for that ale in the local pubs for certain!
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my revisit back to the Morfa stadium and think its one of the best football grounds in North Wales. The clubhouse is exceptional, as was the food on offer, and the ground itself is an excellent venue to watch football regardless of the weather. It is certainly ready to host Welsh Premier League football, should it be forthcoming in the near future. Finally everyone at the club were clearly passionate about the club but were very friendly, welcoming – certainly the best aspect of the groundhop. Although in fairness, the real hero of the day was the person in charge of the music at the ground – a brilliant eclectic mix which I absolutely adored! Top work!
So if you are in area, or are travelling to Snowdonia for holiday, I would highly recommend popping into the Morfa for a game. I am already looking forward to returning back there later on in the season (weather permitting of course) when Holywell Town play Conwy Borough in the Cymru Alliance. Finally I noticed they also had Conwy Borough branded mugs for sale in the clubhouse, and being an owner of mugs from other Cymru Alliance teams, I really have to go back to the Morfa to get one of those, don’t I?? 😉