The 1st round of the JD Welsh Cup takes place across the country this weekend with Fairwater FC looking to cause a huge upset as the lowest-ranked side left in the competition as they head to Trefelin BGC of the JD Cymru South on Saturday (2pm).
“We don't know too much about Trefelin but we did go up to watch them the day after the draw was done,” explained manager Casey Warren to FAW.cymru. “They're obviously a really good outfit that are going for promotion to the JD Cymru Premier and they've had a really good start to the season, so we know that we will be proper underdogs on the day. Trefelin will be one hell of a challenge as they one of the top seeds and we are the lowest-ranked team left, but the boys are really looking forward to it.”
Although they will be clear underdogs, Fairwater have already defied the odds to reach this stage of the competition as the team from the Premier Division of the Cardiff Combination League, Tier 7 of the Welsh football pyramid, progressed through the qualifying rounds with victories over Ely Rangers and Clwb Cymric. The latter coming courtesy of a dramatic 4-3 win as Ryan Hocking scored the winner in the final moments of the match.
“We will take massive confidence from beating Ely Rangers and Clwb Cymric to get to this stage,” Warren added. “To win it in the last minute against Clwb when they had pulled it back to 3-3 was something special and something the boys hadn't experienced before, so that was great. Being involved in the JD Welsh Cup is brilliant. It gives us that little taster of what we could have in the future by playing against the so-called bigger sides further up the pyramid, and the opportunity to pit ourselves against the better teams.”
Moving up the pyramid is all part of the plan for Fairwater, and having missed out on promotion through a play-off defeat to Maesteg Park in 2019 and then as a result of the pandemic in 2020, Warren and his squad will be looking to make it third time lucky when their league season begins. However, the focus for the moment is very much on cup progress, and the side also booked their place in the next round of the FAW Trophy last weekend with a penalty shoot-out victory over league rivals Dock Albion.
But progress off the field is just as important as results on it, and there is plenty of ambition within this thriving club to take things to the next level. “The next steps are that we've got planning permission now to build a stand,” explained Warren. “There are also plans in the pipeline to renovate the changing rooms and the clubhouse on the ground so we can have everything on site. Unfortunately, Fairwater folded a few years ago and that's why we're glad to be playing games like this, to be able to put Fairwater back on the map.
“We've got teams from Under-7's right up to the reserves and 1st team, and within the last couple of years we've introduced the girls and women's teams, and that has taken off really well. The community feel within the club is great. The kids love playing for the club and the parents love watching them. The coaches love coaching the players and they have a great relationship with the parents. This is what we as a club pride ourselves on, and it's really beneficial to have everyone involved with the club happy.
“Obviously it's a big release to get back into football, not just for myself but for all the boys. They were raring to go and it's been nice to keep all the players interested really after such a long lay off. In fairness, this is probably one of the best Fairwater squads we've ever had, even when I was a youngster. We like to play open football, we like to attack and we like to play with a very high tempo.”
Although his immediate focus will be preparing his team for the challenge of taking on Trefelin on Saturday, Warren's involvement with the club stretches much further than the senior team, and his dedication to the cause is a real labour of love. “I'm the secretary of the club so I'm involved with pretty much everything,” he added. “I also coach two junior sides as well as the men and women's teams. I played for Fairwater when I was younger and I've pretty much always lived in the area, so Fairwater's always had a huge part in my life.”
CYMRU FOOTBALL APP
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JD WELSH CUP ROUND 2 DRAW
The JD Welsh Cup Draw Show for Round 2 will take place on Monday, 16 August from 8:00pm across the FAW’s Facebook and YouTube Channels.