The twelve clubs from the JD Cymru Premier enter the JD Welsh Cup this weekend so we sat down with Sgorio presenter Dylan Ebenezer earlier this week to look ahead to the Round 2 and to share his own memories of the competition.
“The hat-trick of Bangor City wins under Nev Powell (2008-2010) was absolutely incredible,” Ebenezer explained. “That's the one that stands-out for me, but I also remember Prestatyn Town winning at the Racecourse (2013) and Aberystwyth Town pushing The New Saints close the following year. Llansantffraid winning it was an unbelievable shock in 1996 because it was a first year that the English clubs weren't involved and people were rightly worried about the future of the cup because of that. So to have that happen right after the change certainly helped.”
The Sgorio cameras will be at Caersws on Saturday as the the side from the Lock Stock Ardal North East take on JD Cymru Premier outfit Flint Town United and the match will be streamed live on S4C's digital channels (5.15pm). The new seeding format means that all twelve clubs from the top-flight are away to lower-league opponents this weekend, and Ebenezer believes this has added plenty of interest to the competition.
“The biggest surprise is that I have to remind myself that Caersws are in Tier 3,” he added. “Having followed the national league from the start they seem to have always been there and some great players have come from there. I can't wait to go back there and they are on a decent run so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a shock, but Flint have looked quite strong, and there is a big jump between the divisions.
“I'm a huge fan of the new seeding system and I think it's worked out well. Some of the games are really fascinating as a result of it and it's a really good initiative that's certainly got my attention. I'm a big fan of anything that raises the interest in the competition, and I love the earlier rounds and seeing the smaller clubs taking on the bigger teams. There are some really good fixtures in the South too with Risca United taking on Penybont and Cardiff Corries hosting Newtown.”
Another initiative to raise the profile of the competition last season was to move the final between Penybont and The New Saints to the Cardiff City Stadium. “I wasn't sure about the decision at first,” said Ebenezer. “But the FAW and the clubs made such an effort that it in the end it looked great with the fans who were there. In hindsight it was definitely the right decision. All that we are doing to raise the profile of the competition at the moment seems to be working.
“The European place is huge factor in maintaining interest in the Welsh Cup for clubs and it's the chance to play different clubs and go to places you wouldn't otherwise play at. There is an attraction and a bit of spice to playing against a different team in a cup competition. Cup competitions are great, and while I do understand why clubs might play weaker teams in some competitions, thankfully that hasn't happened in the Welsh Cup.”
The New Saints are the current holders of the trophy following their 3-2 win over Penybont back in May, and they travel to JD Cymru North side Chirk AAA on Saturday. The club from Holyhead Road have their own special connection with the competition and its heritage having won the trophy five times, including their triumph in 1894 when the great Billy Meredith played for the club in the 2-0 win over Westminster Rovers.
“I think the FAW do a good job of promoting the competition, and when the history of the Welsh Cup is explained to you in terms of how old it is it's quite striking and something we probably take for granted. The cup itself is glorious and so is its history. We have done a lot to promote it but you can always do a lot more. There have been some amazing finals in the past and some great players have been a part of it. It's a special competition.”