Ynys Môn

Ynys Môn / Anglesey

  • Admin HQ: Llangefni
  • Largest Town: Holyhead / Caergybi
  • Population: 70,043 (2017)
  • Languages Spoken: Welsh, English

Records

  • Best Islands Games / Inter-Games Result (Men): GOLD MEDAL (1999, 2019)
  • Best Islands Games / Inter-Games Result Result (Women): Silver Medal (2019)

Ynys Môn / Isle of Anglesey is located in the northwest corner of Wales, jutting out in the eastern Irish Sea. It is divided from Arfon, directly opposite on the Welsh mainland, by the Menai Straits, one of the most dangerous passages of water in Britain. The largest of the Welsh islands, Môn is connected to the mainland by the Thomas Telford designed Menai Suspension Bridge (built in 1826), and the Britannia Bridge, which was initially designed by Robert Stephenson in 1850, but rebuilt in the 1970s to carry both the North Wales Coast Line and the A55 Expressway. The latter being the main artery of the road network in North Wales, with the dual carriageway terminating at Holyhead (Caergybi), connecting the important port up with the remainder of the country, and linking Wales to Ireland via ferry links from Holyhead to Dublin and Belfast.

Football plays a huge part of the island’s identity with a number of its clubs having played in the highest levels of Welsh league football, and producing a vast number of excellent players throughout the decades. However, since a national league was established in 1992, there have been only two Anglesey-based sides who have competed in the Welsh top flight. Cemaes Bay were the first Môn side to compete in the League of Wales (as the league was then known as), playing for three consecutive seasons between the 1995-96 and 1997-98 seasons. Llangefni Town were the second side from the island to compete in the Welsh Premier League (the second name of the top flight, now known as the Cymru Premier) but their appearance was a brief one by spending just the 2007-08 season at the highest tier in the Welsh football pyramid.

As of the 2021-22 season, there are two Môn clubs who compete in the Cymru North, Wales’ second tier regional league which covers northern and central Wales, and the highest level they compete at currently. Llangefni Town returned to the league in 2019 after gaining promotion from the defunct Welsh Alliance Division 1, whilst Holyhead Hotspur (based in Anglesey’s biggest town) returned to the second tier this season after a brief hiatus away in the third tier. The island also had its own domestic league, the Anglesey League, which was founded as early as 1895, and provided a highly competitive competition for the clubs on the island. Sadly, as Welsh league football was reorganised throughout the 1980s to 2010s, the standard of the league diminished as the level of the league dropped down the pyramid and the better teams gained promotion to more larger regionalised leagues. Eventually, the historic league was finally folded in 2020 as part of a massive restructuring of the Welsh football pyramid. As from the 2021-22 season, a lot of Môn clubs will now compete in the North Wales Coast West Football League, which covers northeastern Wales, and are divided between the Premier League (tier four) or Division One (tier five).

What makes Anglesey football unique from the remainder of Wales is that they have their own representative team that competes on an international level. Because of their island status, Ynys Môn competes in the biennial Island Games, a multi-sports event where different island communities around the world can compete in. As football is one of the sports within the games, Ynys Môn often sends men’s and women’s teams to the football competition. During the history of the competition, the men’s side has tended to be more successful than their female equivalents, with the men’s team having won the gold medal in 1999, and finishing as silver medalists on four other occasions, whilst the best performance from the women’s team was a sixth place finish in 2003. However, both Môn sides would perform incredibly in the 2019 Inter-Games Football Tournament.

Due to the 2019 Island Games hosts Gibraltar not having enough pitches to run the football tournaments, the football tournaments were still organised, but outside of the Island Games sphere and moved to Anglesey. As hosts of the tournament, both sides did incredibly well with the women’s team progressing to the final for the very first time in their history, but were just pipped to the gold medal by losing 2-1 to the Isle of Man team in the final. The men’s team repeated the trick of their female counterparts by also reaching the final of the male tournament. However, the hosts finally achieved that second gold medal and success on home soil by coming back from a goal down to beat Guernsey 2-1 in the final at Holyhead. An incredible summer for the history of football on the island!

To talk about the current Island Games football gold medalists and one of the best places in Wales to watch football, is the excellent Arron Fôn Evans from AFE Football News. It is a Welsh football blog which was established in 2015 and reports on all things involving Welsh football but particularly focuses on Anglesey football, from where Arron is from. In addition, Arron is a superb football journalist and writer, and was the first-team manager of Llandegfan FC before the club folded in 2021. To find his blogsite and social media accounts, follow the links below:

Also check out when Arron defined his all-time Anglesey Starting XI from a couple of years ago HERE.

Q. Who would you say is the island’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Wayne Hennessey

A very tough question to start with! In terms of best ever player in recent times who’s gone on to big things – it has to be Wayne Hennessey [34-year-old goalkeeper who has just recently moved to Burnley from Crystal Palace, and was raised in Beaumaris]. To go on from playing junior football to representing your country nearly 100 times is every footballer’s dream, and Wayne has lived it.

In my time watching the game locally the best goalscorers I’ve witnessed are Corrig McGonigle (now at Conwy Borough) and Asa Thomas (now with Bodedern Athletic). Just two absolute goal machines and naturally gifted players. Corrig was top scorer in the Cymru North for the 2019/20 season [scoring 24 goals for Conwy], and Asa passed the 500 goal mark for his career. Two players I’ve always enjoyed watching.

Ricky Williams
[IMAGE: Wynne Evans via AFE Football News]

The best manager is a difficult one as success is measured in different ways. However, I’d have to go with Ricky Williams in recent times on the island. He’s taken Bodedern from the bottom of the pyramid to narrowly missing out on getting promotion into tier 2 a few years back. Boded went on to win the Gwynedd League and Cup double in 2016/17 as they clinched promotion to Welsh Alliance Two. 2017/18 made it back-to-back promotions as the club finished runners-up in WA2 and move on up to WA1, in a season in which they also won the Take Stock Van Hire Cup. The Green and White Army very nearly made it a hat-trick of promotions in 2018/19, but were ultimately pipped to the post by Llangefni Town who subsequently went up to the JD Cymru North come the end of that season.

During Williams’ time at the club, Boded have also won the Safeflue Shield, Gwynedd Cup, Two Welsh Alliance Division 2 Cups, and been semi-finalists in the prestigious FAW Trophy, which involves teams from across the whole of Wales. An unbelievable manager and, without doubt, one of the best around.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of Môn football both in the past and present?

Mel McGinness

One of the biggest cult heroes of recent times is probably forward Mel McGinness, who is now back at Holyhead Hotspur. Having banged in the goals at various levels over the years, he well and truly rubber-stamped his name into Anglesey footballing history in the summer of 2019 when he scored the winning goal to secure gold for the Ynys Môn men’s side in the Island Games Football Tournament.

He’s one of those players who everyone knows who he is – even if they don’t follow football I’d imagine. A fantastic player and one you just can’t hate for what he’s done over the years.

Q. Of the current players, who would you say is the best player playing on, or originating from Anglesey currently?

Corrig McGonigle

I would have to go with Corrig McGonigle again here. People were very excited about him when he started out banging the goals in for Pentraeth at a young age, and you could tell back then that he could go right to the top. He has been consistently dangerous for Conwy Borough at tier two level for a few seasons now and it’s been my opinion for a while that it won’t be long before we see him compete in the Cymru Premier. He’s still only 24/25 and has scored more than 300 goals to date. An unbelievable finisher and just a player who changes games on his own.

Q. Are there any players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from Ynys Môn?

Anglesey has long been a hotspot for developing great young talent and that’s still the case now!

Sam Gregson
[IMAGE: Richard Gregson via AFE Football News]

There are endless amounts of talented players coming through the Holyhead Hotspur youth ranks every season – right now you have left-back Phil Jones, 18, and centre-back Cameron Eaton, 18, who are knocking on the door of the first team already, as well as midfielder Mitchell Jones, 18, who controls the game so well in midfield. Caergybi forward Louis Chapman, 20, is another to keep an eye on having scored 7 goals in 3 matches already this season [at the time of writing].

In my opinion though, the biggest talent of them all is Bodedern Athletic midfielder Sam Gregson, who is also 18. He played for Llangoed in the 2019/20 season, when he had just turned 16, and went onto score eight goals and put several MOTM performances in. He’s a Caernarfon Town academy player too and is absolutely fearless for his age. Great vision, work rate, and attitude – he’s got everything he needs to succeed in the game. He hit a hat-trick for Boded just last week too.

Q. Historically, which Anglesey club has been the most successful, and currently, who are the best team on the island?

Currently, the best on the island have to be Llangefni Town and Holyhead Hotspur given that they’re both in tier two [the Cymru North] but there are so many clubs who are going about things the right way. The aforementioned Bodedern have risen through the ranks over the years and there are many others working tirelessly behind the scenes to make things happen too.

Historically speaking some of the most successful teams on the island are Gwalchmai, Llangefni Town, Amlwch Town, Holyhead Town, Llanfairpwll, Bodedern Athletic, Cemaes Bay, Holyhead Hotspur, Glantraeth, and Menai Tigers as they’ve all won countless silverware down the years.

Trearddur Bay United, Bro Goronwy, and Newborough, who are sadly no longer with us, were also huge clubs that enjoyed great success.

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of football on the island?

The state of football in Anglesey since COVID-19 struck is worrying. We’ve lost so many clubs over the last year and a half or so, including my own (Llandegfan FC). It’s partly due to COVID, and partly due to a lack of funding in this area. Despite that though, there are positives there too.

Holyhead Hotspur have gone back up to tier two now, so that means we have them and Llangefni Town playing that high up in the Welsh football pyramid, which is good for the island to be represented in that way. The new leagues at tier 4 and 5 also look very competitive and I think they’ll only boost the game’s reputation on the island in years to come.

Football is huge on Anglesey and clubs are often the beating heart of the communities here.

Q. Looking at Môn’s football history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance for either the island’s representive team or its club sides in your opinion?

The one result that will always stick in everyone’s mind is that 2-1 win over Guernsey in the Island Games final on home soil in 2019. A crowd of more than 3,000 turned up at Holyhead Hotspur’s New Stadium that day – proving what football means to the island, particularly in the Holyhead area.

It was a game that had everything too. Guernsey took the lead in the 5th minute and Môn keeper Paul Pritchard save a penalty to keep it at 1-0 at the break. Liam Morris (now with Hotspur) scored a sensational volleyed leveller in the second half before Mel McGinness fired in the winner with a rocket. When the final whistle blew, there was a pitch invasion, flares, you name it, and of course smiles all around. The island was buzzing after it, it was fantastic.

In addition, the Môn ladies team also won silver that year and were superb throughout – adding to the euphoria of the tournament for everyone following it.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of Môn football?

The best thing about being a fan of football on Môn is that so many other people follow it too, so it’s a great topic of conversation for many people, especially now with the Cymru Football app [available on all mobile platforms] giving everyone great access to stats and player info.

The worst thing is seeing all these clubs having to fold – clubs that mean a lot to people. So many people have been left heartbroken over the last year due to this, not through lack of effort on their part, but through lack of funding or support from those in charge

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from any of the clubs from Anglesey?

One of my favourite shirts is the 1970s Wales-inspired Bryngwran Bulls shirt which they wore for a number of seasons – including for the game in which they won the Anglesey League title in 2018/19. It’s definitely one I’d like to add to my collection!

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of football on the isle?

My hopes for the future of football on the island is that clubs receive more support financially so that they can thrive the way they should. The passion for the game here is unrivalled at times but these days you have to have the money to help you out.

I would also love to see some of our talented young players go on to play in the Welsh top-flight, the EFL, or even for Wales someday. I’m blinded by faith but I honestly believe that there’s some fantastic players on this island right now who could go on to great things in years to come.

A massive diolch yn fawr to Arron for answering our questions on football on Ynys Môn. Remember you can find his website and social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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