by Kevin Henning
In all honesty, a third birthday party with a princess theme, a bouncy castle and a number of children whose ages range from 2 to 14 isn’t the most appealing of social occasions to this thirty something year old football fan. I did have some making up to do though after missing my niece’s birthday completely last year so decided to head to the venue – the home of the cup winners.
As I entered the bar area, I spotted the cup itself perched on the end of the bar. My eyes must have lit up because my Dad immediately advised me to speak to the chap serving at the bar about having a photo with my two sons and the cup. I tentatively approached the bar, ordered a pint of lager and pondered how to go about asking to get my hands on a major piece of silverware. I needn’t have worried, the chap in question was a club director and the conversation went something like this :
Me – “Would there be any chance of getting my boys to stand near the cup for a photograph?”
Director – “Course you can, just be careful you don’t drop it. We have to pay for any dents or damage.”
Me – “What so I can pick it up? I won’t let the boys hold it, don’t worry.”
Director – ” They’ll be alright, just make sure they can hold it before you let go of it.”
Me – “Well you can watch to make sure we don’t damage it. I’ll take it next to the bar against this white wall.”
Director – “Don’t be so daft. Get yourselves out onto the pitch with it. Just bring it back when you’ve finished.”
I appreciate that we are all aware that the differences between the Welsh and English Premier leagues are a World apart. However, what our Welsh counterparts lack in global appeal and quality, they more than make up for in friendliness and hospitality.
The director I spoke to was called Tony O’Riley and the club was Prestatyn Town. The Seasiders created history back in May by becoming the 50th team to appear in the Welsh FA Cup Final. A 3-1 victory against Bangor City brought the cup to Bastion Gardens for the very first time, setting the club up for a crack at qualification for the Europa League.
Those of you from the North West may have holidayed around the Denbighshire coastal town in your childhood. I have many happy memories myself and begun to visit Prestatyn regularly when my parents moved to Wales more than a decade ago. The tiny ground is a mere 42 miles from the centre of Liverpool and only an hour and a half from the middle of Manchester. I would highly recommend a trip to any football fanatics who fancy something different.
Meliden Mountain forms a picturesque backdrop from the main stand which is filled with sky blue seats that once lived at Maine Road, Manchester. Unlike at English league grounds, you can enjoy a pint while you watch the action and should you decide to take in a match on a Saturday afternoon, a stroll along Ffrith Beach to watch the sunset over the Irish Sea will finish off your day perfectly.
The draw for the first qualifying round of the Europa League will take place on Monday of next week and the two legged affair played out over the first fortnight in July. Due to UEFA rules, Bastion Gardens will not be allowed to host European ties and Prestatyn will use Rhyl Town’s home instead but the Seasiders first ever foray into continental football will be a huge event for the town.
Get yourself down to the small club with a huge heart during the upcoming season for a taste of a more laid back approach to the game and you may find yourself wandering along the touchline with the Welsh Cup in your hands.