Adventures in Football #69 (nice): The Rock (Cefn Druids)
NOVEMBER 12, 2022
CEFN DRUIDS vs. LLANELLI TOWN (Welsh Cup)
Something a bit different for our 69th instalment of the AIF as we’re in Wales for only the second time. The first time was the national team at the Cardiff City stadium. This time around it’s a less prestigious event but an equally exciting venue; The Rock. Last season Cefn got relegated out of the Cymru Premier and are now in the Cymru North.
As you can see from this map, Cefn is very close to the English border, although not as close as Chirk. There’s a load of teams up in the Wrexham area. Visiting Llanelli are in the Cymru South. Llanelli were pretty good and in Europe between 2006-2012. Cefn have twice been in Europe but never won a fixture having been eliminated at the first hurdle in 2012 and 2018.
Cefn Druids were formed in 1992 as a merger of Cefn Albion and Druids United but trace their roots back to the nineteenth century. In 2018 they were the fifth best team in Wales, but the downfall has been rapid. Last season they won two of thirty-two games and shipped 109 goals. They’ve been better this season though and could arguably be favourites in this game. They’ve won four of their last five games and have been more convincing than Llanelli who crept past Canton Liberal in the last round. Druids thumped Glantraeth 5-0.
Around 11am and we head off. Mike Kilby is up for this one so he’s in the back of the car while Maria is driving. We come off the motorway pretty early because no motorways go to Cefn-mawr. After a solid stint on the A5 and crossing the border into Wales we’re at Rhosymedre (no, I can’t pronounce that). The county we’re in is Wrexham and because I’ve not spent much time in Wales before I’m a bit confused. For people who’ve never been to Wales (outside of Cardiff) everything is in two languages, so I suddenly find myself learning a lot of Welsh.
We park up at The Rock and after a nice chat with the guy on the door, who tells us the entry fee is £7, bargain, we head off into Cefn-mawr to have a walk around. On route we spot not one but two other football grounds! The nearby FC Cefn play at Rhosymedre Football Pitch. It’s basically a school playing field. We also spot The Muga, home of Cefn Rangers. Keeping in mind Cefn is a village with around 6000 inhabitants. They have three teams. Our walk takes us to the Jolly Masons, but it’s closed and there’s a guard dog prowling the grounds. A little further down we come upon the Holly Bush Inn and pop in for a cheeky pint of…Caffreys? They still make this shit?
You may notice the ‘oldest club in Wales’ sign, which Wrexham fans might contest. Apparently, the claim is that Cefn is the oldest team in the Welsh pyramid, which Wrexham aren’t in. The Druids have been around since 1872. What is certain is that the Welsh Cup dates back to 1877 and the first final saw Wrexham beat the Druids 1-0. So, whoever is oldest, these are both teams with a rich history. The Druids won 6 of the first 11 Welsh Cups finals. Despite being one of the most successful clubs in the Welsh Cup, Druids haven’t won one since 1904.
This is The Rock! Our main reason for coming up to Wales was to watch a game in this amazing stadium, one side of which is the wall of an abandoned quarry. We have a quick look around before hunger takes over. We can smell what the Rock is cooking, and it smells tasty. Mike and I both get a burger and Maria gets some French fries. It’s decent food and all three items set me back a mere £7.50.
It’s a tidy set up with one main stand and standing areas all around the rest of the ground. Opposite the stand is the dug outs and a little TV gantry with a Welsh flag inside it. No cameras today so if we miss a goal, it’s gone forever. The pitch is plastic unfortunately but given the weather in this part of the world it’s not a shock. The goals aren’t on wheels though, so that’s a bonus point. It also has less aggressively shit fencing compared to English non-league teams who’ve opted for astro.
This is the famous Rock. There’s housing running along the top there and I reckon people could probably stand in their gardens and get a cracking overview of a game. Like the top tier at Wembley. There’s a weird amount of flies in the air down in this corner. I find a pile of dung behind the stand later in the day that explains this situation but it’s very weird seeing flies in mid-November.
This is the main (well, only) stand at Cefn. We sat at the far end to eat food and then moved up higher in the second half. It’s an open ground so you can move around and explore at will. The vast majority of people opted to sit in this stand, and it was a good view. The little green signs are a leftover from COVID and are where certain people were supposed to sit during socially distanced games. Maria was sat in a seat that had PRESS on it in the second half.
During the pre-match minute’s silence (for stadium announce Ian Reece), I spot this graffiti halfway up the Rock. Respect to Jamie 20 for however he managed to do that. I assume he rappelled down from the top of the cliff because there’s nowhere to put a ladder at the bottom. We get underway and Cefn take an early lead when a misplaced pass finds the right winger who cuts inside and curls one in the far corner. 1-0 Cefn!
We are about to go for a walk when Cefn’s number 3, Nick Grogan according to Transfermarkt, rifles in a long-range effort. 2-0 Cefn! They’re playing so well that it comes as a real kick in the teeth when the ball escapes the control of Charlie McMahon (I think) and he goes in dangerously high trying to reclaim possession. A straight red card and Cefn are down to ten with a lot of time left. There are no complaints from the Druids. It was an easy decision for the referee.
This is a proper ‘spot the ball’ picture I took of a Llanelli Town corner. The ball is there, I swear. While I was admiring my photography skills, the Druids broke down the other end and scored! Neither of us saw what happened. I asked a club official for Cefn what happened, and he’d missed it too! 3-0 Cefn!
We go for a walk around and get a selfie with The Rock. Llanelli improve towards half-time and score a debatable penalty deep in injury time. The most bizarre thing we experience in the first half is a one-man crowd singing songs about Michael Jones, the Druids keeper. “He plays in black and white, he’s fucking dynamite”. He was literally singing this on his own for AGES. Aside from chanting on your own for half the game, it’s not even accurate. The keeper doesn’t play in black and white, he’s in sky blue.
We continue to walk around at half-time and I discover the non-league pile of crap. Every ground has one. They tried to hide it here, but I see it! It’s a tidy ground with a nice level of perimeter fence. The temptation was there to lean on some fence for the second half as the quarry protects you from the elements and it’s possible to stand between the dug outs and still see the whole pitch. I love listening to coaches mouth off. The Llanelli boss in particular is a bit of a gobshite.
Up into the stand for the second half and we have a pole! The stand is really nice, and I enjoy sitting up here as it gets progressively more wintery outside. I think we’ve caught the Rock just right. Any later in the year and it’d be bloody freezing out here, but we have the autumnal colours. Llanelli come out determined to get back into the game against a Druids team lining up with two lines of four and no out ball whenever they have possession. They’re defending the lead quite well until 82’ when a cross is turned in from close range. 3-2. Game on and the Druids are defending deeper and deeper.
This is a picture Maria took of us over the far side just before she nipped back to the car for a half time nap. As the floodlights begin to creep on the drama intensifies. A poor choice of pass from Cefn could have seen them go 4-2 up. Instead, the player that was blatantly offside gets the ball and tucks it away. Still, 3-2 and time is running out. A long ball for Llanelli is flicked on and drops in between centre back and keeper. 3-3 and we’re going to penalties (I think). But wait, a dramatic last gasp set piece for Llanelli sees the ball drop at the feet of Marsh and his shot goes through a crowd of players and under super Michael Jones. 3-4. Llanelli steal it at the death, the jammy bastards. They were losing with ten minutes to go, and they’ve only gone and won it.
It’s over at the Rock and Cefn Druids have been done over by an unfortunate red card and fortunate late strikes for Llanelli. With the drama over we hit the road and say goodbye to a fabulous ground. How does it score on my ratings system though?
A load of Llanelli fans made the trip and were quite vocal without resorting to chanting. The one-man crowd went up against them and endeared himself in the process. I can’t imagine having to put up with that every single game though. *½
It was £7 and we got a goal per pound, which is a bargain. ****
It was a fun game but would have been better if both teams had 11 players all game. Despite the red card the dramatic finish made things fun. ****
EASE OF ACCESS
Cefn is fairly out of the way. You have to be aiming to go there. That said, once you’re there parking is easy at the ground and costs nothing. Going by train is possible. The station is at Ruabon, which is 1.5 miles away and I believe there is a bus if you can’t be bothered to walk that. ***½
It’s in a quarry! It looks cool as hell. It’s not quite Braga but it’s still a fun ground to go to and tick off. The food was decent. The one bloke chanting by himself is not something I’d want at every game, but it did make me laugh. ***½
It’s quite a high score for Cefn Druids and the Rock. It deserves it just for how unique the experience is. It helped immensely that the game we saw was such good fun. The 16.5 stars drops it between Arsenal and MK Dons. Two newer grounds with super facilities. If Druids had a passionate and excitable fanbase (rather than just one guy) they would have done even better. One for the Groundhopping Bucket List if you’ve not been.
Goodbye, from the Rock