JD Welsh Cup - The legends who lifted the trophy
This weekend the remaining four teams will battle it out for a place in the 134th JD Welsh Cup Final and with it move a step closer to claiming the famous old trophy that was first competed for back in 1878 when Wrexham defeated the Druids.
Since then, the final has remained a showpiece occasion in the domestic football calendar, and 34 different clubs have won the iconic trophy since that first-ever decider at Acton Park. Current holders The New Saints have lifted the cup eight times and will be looking to make it nine ahead of their semi-final match against Penybont on Saturday, while Bala Town and Connah's Quay Nomads won the cup for the first time in 2017 and 2018 respectively and can still taste that success as they go head-to-head on Friday night.
But the rich traditions of the Welsh Cup mean that a number of illustrious names from Welsh football history have also experienced glory in the competition during their playing careers. As part of our build-up to the semi-finals, here's a look at some of the all-time Cymru greats who boast a Welsh Cup winners' medal on their impressive list of honours in the game.
Billy Meredith – Chirk AAA (1893/94)
One of the very first superstars of the professional game, Billy Meredith represented Manchester United and Manchester City with distinction, playing over 300 games for both clubs, while also making 48 appearances for Cymru between 1895 and 1920. But it was at the very start of his career with Chirk AAA that he claimed his first domestic honour as his side defeated Westminster Rovers 2-0 in the Welsh Cup Final at Wynnstay Park in front of a reported attendance of 3,000. That year Meredith also represented Northwich Victoria and Wrexham, with his performances earning him his move to Manchester City.
Fred Keenor – Cardiff City (1922/23, 1926/27, 1927/28, 1929/30)
There are few more important figures in the history of Cardiff City than Fred Keenor, a fact supported by the statue that stands outside the Cardiff City Stadium today. Representing the club either side of the First World War, Keenor was enlisted into the 17th Middlesex Battalion where he sustained serious injury from shrapnel to his leg, but recovered and returned to enjoy a decade of success that included four Welsh Cup Final victories, the first of which took place 100 years ago in 1923. Keenor also holds the unique record of captaining his team to to both Welsh Cup and English FA Cup glory in the same season as Cardiff City celebrated a famous cup double in 1927.
Trevor Ford – Cardiff City (1955/56)
Still joint-third on the Cymru men's all-time goalscorer list alongside Ivor Allchurch with 23 goals for his country in 38 internationals, striker Trevor Ford's Welsh Cup success with Cardiff City in 1956 would prove to be the only silverware of his career. Playing against his former club Swansea Town in the final at Ninian Park, Ford was not on target in the 3-2 victory, but during the course of his club career he scored over 200 goals during spells at clubs that included Aston Villa, Sunderland and PSV Eindhoven.
Ivor Allchurch – Swansea Town (1949/50, 1965/66) – Cardiff City (1963/64, 1964/65)
One of the true greats of his generation, Ivor Allchurch won the Welsh Cup on four occasions with his success shared between spells with Swansea Town and Cardiff City. His first triumph came in 1950 during his first year as a professional with the Swans in a 4-1 win over Wrexham, but he wouldn't lift the trophy again until 1964 when three games were required for his Cardiff City side to get the better of Bangor City. Allchurch and Cardiff City retained the trophy the following year but needed three games to edge past Wrexham, and following his return to Swansea Town, he scored in the decisive third match against Chester to win the competition for the fourth and final time in his career.
John Charles – Cardiff City (1963/64, 1964/65)
During his time at Italian giants Juventus, the great John Charles won five major domestic honours, but it was during the final years of his professional career with Cardiff City that he claimed two Welsh Cup titles. Playing alongside Ivor Allchurch and his brother Mel, Charles was part of the team that defeated Bangor City in 1964 and repeated their success the following season against Wrexham. Regarded as one of the greatest Cymru players of all-time, Charles scored 15 goals in 38 international appearances, but missed the defeat to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup quarter-final through injury.
John Toshack – Cardiff City (1967/68, 1968/69)
Scoring 100 goals in just over 200 games for Cardiff City alerted Liverpool to the talent of John Toshack, but it was during his formative years at Ninian Park that the striker claimed two Welsh Cup winners' medals in consecutive seasons. The first came in 1968 as Hereford United were comfortably defeated over two legs, while in 1969 Toshack scored in both games against Swansea City as his side successfully defended the trophy. Toshack would later join Swansea City as player-manager and his side would claim the Welsh Cup 1981, 1982 and 1983, but he did not feature as a player in any of those three finals.
Leighton James – Swansea City (1980/81, 1981/82)
A veteran of 54 international games for Cymru, Leighton James was a key member of John Toshack's famous Swansea City side that rose through the Football League. But success also followed on the domestic front as the side claimed two consecutive Welsh Cup titles in the early 1980's, and James played in both finals as Swansea City defeated Hereford United and Cardiff City. Swansea City would win the trophy again in 1983 but without James, while the success was overshadowed by relegation from the First Division.
Alan Curtis – Swansea City (1980/81, 1981/82) - Cardiff City (1987/88) – Barry Town (1993/94)
Winning the competition with three different clubs, Alan Curtis played alongside Leighton James in John Toshack's successful Swansea City side and won the Welsh Cup in 1981 and 1982, but like James also didn't feature in the 1983 final. However, he would return to the Vetch Field in the colours of Cardiff City for the 1988 final against Wrexham and scored a memorable goal in the 2-0 victory. Curtis still had time to celebrate more Welsh Cup success in 1994, as despite having turned 40 the month before, his Barry Town side caused an upset at Cardiff Arms Park with a 2-1 win over his former club Cardiff City in front of 14,500 fans.