Cwmbran Celtic a collective force in JD Welsh Cup run
It will be a proud moment for Cwmbran Celtic manager James Kinsella when his side take to the field against JD Welsh Cup holders The New Saints on Saturday (2pm) and their achievement of reaching the quarter-final is testament to the progress they have made this season.
Relegation from the JD Cymru South was avoided by a handful of points back in April last year while Kinsella's first experience of managing in the JD Welsh Cup last season came to an early end in the opening round. However, the addition of a couple of experienced figures has steadied the ship at Celtic Park and their incredible run to the last eight of the competition is a deserved reward for the collective effort by everyone involved with the club.
“The Welsh Cup is a massive thing for us,” explained Kinsella to FAW.cymru this week. “Last year was my first campaign and we lost in the first round to Penydarren, so it was a nice bit of revenge to beat them and reach the quarter-finals. I'm over the moon with the progress we have made this season. We had to dig our heels in last year to stay in the division and we deserved to stay up, but this year the boys have gone the extra mile. The experience we've brought in has helped us massively. As a collective we wanted to be better than last season and the boys really have given everything.”
Cwmbran Celtic reached the quarter-final with a 3-2 win over Penydarren Seniors a fortnight ago when the match was finally played at the fourth time of asking. Two postponements at Celtic Park meant that the tie would be reversed to the home of their opponents, and a further postponement followed before the match eventually went ahead. Goals from Dominic Connor and a double from Andrew Larcombe put Celtic 3-0 ahead after just 16 minutes, and despite Penydarren responding with two second half goals, Kinsella's side held on for the win.
“The postponements were an absolute nightmare,” he added. “We deserved our home draw after beating Carmarthen, which was tough in itself, but obviously the weather had different ideas so it was very frustrating from our point of view. This is probably the best place the club has ever been in. All the players from the first team, the seconds, the thirds and the ladies as a senior collective are a really tight-knit group at the moment and it's really good to see. In terms of the Welsh Cup, I know how big it is to the club. I was a supporter when we got to the quarter-finals last time, so to now equal that is quite surreal.”
It was in 2016/17 that Nicky Church guided Cwmbran Celtic to this stage of the competition before they were eliminated at home by Port Talbot Town. The formidable challenge for Kinsella and his squad now is that of the current JD Cymru Premier league leaders and champions The New Saints, who lifted the JD Welsh Cup to complete the domestic double at the Cardiff City Stadium last May. Craig Harrison's side progressed to the quarter-finals with a convincing 7-0 win over Newtown last month, with Declan McManus scoring twice to add to his impressive goal tally. However, Kinsella is only concerned with how his team perform on the day.
“In terms of our game plan we won't change anything,” he explained. “We will do what we do normally. We play against teams that have a lot of attacking quality in the Cymru South, even though they're not professional, we come up against players like Lee Trundle at Ammanford and Luke Bowen and Tom Walters at Briton Ferry, so we're used to playing against strong attacking players. It's obviously going to be difficult, but being at home we will do what we can to give a good account of ourselves more than anything, and try to stay in the game for as long as possible.
“It's no secret that our pitch isn't the best, and I do think that will play a massive factor, especially with them being used to playing on artificial surfaces and us being used to our pitch and the smaller size of it. We've had a look at a few highlights of their games, but to be honest we're not really worrying too much about the opposition. We're more concerned with what we can do as a collective.”
Alex Bonthron and Lewis Iles are the current leading goalscorers for Cwmbran Celtic in the JD Cymru South and both have played important roles in the side having a far better goal difference than any of their rivals in the bottom half of the table. With a great turnout expect at Celtic Park on Saturday for the visit of The New Saints, Kinsella will be hoping his side can make history with what would be the result of the competition so far, and give those volunteers who give so much of their time to supporting the club a day to remember.
“The support that we have means everything to us,” Kinsella added. “Especially to myself as the manager. It's great to come out of the dressing room and see everyone there from the club including the youth and the junior teams supporting you. We're run by volunteers, so it's more for them, and the players feel that as well. When they give that extra 10 per cent it's not just for ourselves as a team, but also for all those who support us, travel away with us and do everything for us at the club.”