This weekend teams from across Wales will return to competitive action as the 1st qualifying round of the JD Welsh Cup marks the start of the 2021/22 season with a host of fixtures scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
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It is a particularly poignant month for all of the clubs involved as they return to league and cup action as their last competitive fixtures were played back in March 2020. One of those clubs are Ton Pentre FC, and this will be a significant JD Welsh Cup campaign for the Rhondda Bulldogs as it marks their 100th anniversary of reaching the final for the one and only time in their history.
Manager Nickie Jones and his squad will welcome Pencoed Athletic to Ynys Park on Saturday with both teams looking to progress to the 2nd qualifying round. A lot has changed in the domestic game their last competitive match, and Ton Pentre will start the new season as members of the Ardal South West, with Pencoed competing in the Premier Division of the South Wales Alliance League.
Originally established in 1896, Ton Pentre previously reached the semi-final of the competition in 1911/12, but were defeated 3-1 by Pontypridd. However, the side would reach the Welsh Cup final in 1921/22, and would take on Cardiff City at Taff Vale Park in Pontypridd with a reported attendance of around 8,000 fans. Like many post-war public events, football was enjoying an attendance boom at the time.
Ton Pentre didn't enter the 1921/22 edition of the Welsh Cup until the 3rd round. Defeating Caerau 1-0, the side from the Rhondda then claimed impressive 1-0 and 2-0 victories over Swansea Town and Wrexham respectively to book their place in the final. Meanwhile, Cardiff City had made their way to the final with convincing wins over Newport County, Merthyr Town and Pontypridd.
One of nine clubs competing in what was the Welsh section of the Southern Football League that season, Ton Pentre had finished second in the table behind Ebbw Vale. However, Cardiff City proved too strong in the Welsh Cup final, with in-form forward duo Len Davies and Jimmy Gill scoring the goals in the 2-0 win.
Ton Pentre again reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2001/02 and 2002/03, but their appearance in the final 100 years ago has never been repeated. Meanwhile, Ton Pentre are not the only name in 1st qualifying round with history in the competition, with Aberdare Town and Cwmbran Town also hosting fixtures in the opening round this weekend.
Aberdare Town take on Cwmbach Royal Stars on Saturday, and their name is established the annals of Welsh Cup history having been losing finalists in 1903/04, 1904/05 and 1922/23. The current club is also connected to the Aberaman Athletic side that reached the final in 1902/03, although they have never lifted the trophy.
Likewise, Cwmbran Town have been losing finalists on three occasions, reaching the domestic showpiece final in 1996/97, 1999/00 and 2002/03. This weekend the side from the Premier Division of the Gwent County League take on Monmouth Town at the Cwmbran Stadium.
It has been a long wait for the majority of clubs in Wales to return to competitive action, and the many volunteers who have gone over and above to ensure that the necessary safety protocols are in place deserve great credit for making this coming weekend possible. It has been a difficult time for everyone involved in the domestic game, but the start of the new season is another significant step towards to a better future.
Check out all the JD Welsh Cup Qualifying Round 1 fixtures and live updates on match day in the Cymru Football App on your smart devices. Visit your app store to download it now:
[Pictured: The Ton Pentre team during the 1921/22 season.]