The JD Welsh Cup is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world and has provided some of the most memorable and career-defining moments in the domestic game over the years.
Prior to lockdown, the four managers preparing to lead their teams into the semi-finals spoke to FAW.cymru about the competition and its importance in the fixture calendar.
“It doesn't get bigger than the JD Welsh Cup in the domestic game,” explained Caernarfon Town manager Huw Griffiths. “I’ve been to the final twice – once as a player and once as a manager – and finished second both times, so it would be nice to get there for a third time and go on and win it.”
Caernarfon Town found themselves drawn against JD Cymru Premier rivals Cardiff Met for a place in the 133rd final prior to the suspension of domestic football in March. “I see the JD Welsh Cup as a unique challenge,” enthused Cardiff Met manager Christian Edwards as he discussed the chances of his team. “Traditionally, the latter stages of the competition were only every contested by the likes of Swansea City, Cardiff City, Newport County, Wrexham and so on when they were involved in it, so you never really got to these stages as a so-called smaller club. But these days, there is a real opportunity to win a fantastic and privileged competition.”
Prestatyn Town and The New Saints have both lifted the trophy in recent seasons, and respective managers Neil Gibson and Scott Ruscoe were happy to share their memories of the competition. Gibson guided Prestatyn Town to a famous victory over Bangor City in the final back in 2013, while Ruscoe completed the domestic double with his side last year when they lifted the famous trophy thanks to a 3-0 win over Connah's Quay Nomads.
“There is something magical and romantic about this competition because it gives everybody an opportunity to progress as far as they can, even win it,” Gibson explained. “I remember when Prestatyn Town were just a Clwyd League team and we played Bangor City in Round 3 when I was a youngster and we suffered a narrow defeat. That was a magical time for the football club, to be a team from a small town playing at a lower level to go and test ourselves against some of the big boys. I think it took on a renewed importance after some of the success we’ve had in the more recent years.”
Ruscoe has also had his fair share of JD Welsh Cup success, lifting the trophy as both a player and manager during his time with The New Saints. “We’ve had some fantastic moments in this competition,” he explained. “But we still always want more – that feeling never gets tiring, and it's our job to do as well as we can and win as many games as possible. This is an enormous competition, it has so much history and it has always been special to me every since I first played in it. It is such an exciting competition, it gives everybody a chance to show what they can do and fight their way to the final.
“You can never call how a game is going to go in this competition, because everyone that takes to the field in the JD Welsh Cup just seems to have even more desire and drive than usual to do well, because there’s always so much to play for and everybody wants to progress as far as possible. I love everything about it. I’ve won it as a player, as a manager, and every time we compete in this cup, it's a massive occasion for everyone involved.”