The New Saints reclaimed their JD Cymru Premier crown in 2022 while Swansea City Ladies won their third consecutive Genero Adran Premier title in what has been another exciting year for the domestic game.
However, there was a difficult start to the year as Covid restrictions resulted in the postponement of fixtures until late January, but thankfully normal service was quickly resumed and the year saw a welcome return to normality after a tough couple of years since the start of the pandemic. Here's a look at what happened across the domestic game during 2022.
JD Cymru Leagues
Winning the JD Cymru Premier title by a 21-point margin and completing the double with the JD Welsh Cup earned Anthony Limbrick the Manager of the Season award as The New Saints became champions for the first time since the 2018/19 season. Striker Declan McManus claimed the Golden Boot and Player of the Season trophy, but their European struggles saw Limbrick replaced by former manager Craig Harrison in August as he returned to Park Hall from Connah's Quay Nomads. The New Saints currently hold a commanding lead at the top of the table heading into 2023 and Harrison will be confident of adding to the long list of honours achieved during his first spell as manager.
Meanwhile, Aberystwyth Town became first club to play 1000 games in the domestic top-flight back in February and their achievement was matched a couple of weeks later by Newtown. They are the only two clubs that have been ever-present in the league since its formation in 1992/93. Caernarfon Town defeated Flint Town United 2-1 in the Play-Off Final in May through goals from Danny Gosset and Laurence Bell to qualify for the Scottish Challenge Cup along with champions The New Saints, but defeats to Clyde and Dundee respectively brought their involvement in the competition to an end in September.
Airbus UK Broughton returned to the top-flight in 2022 as they were crowned champions of the JD Cymru North, scoring 85 goals in the process. At the other end of the table, Bangor City resigned from the league while Llangefni Town and Llanrhaeadr were relegated to the Ardal Leagues. In the JD Cymru South, Llantwit Major won the league title but were unable to meet the criteria for promotion, leaving runners-up Pontypridd Town to claim their place in the JD Cymru Premier for the first time. Risca United, Undy Athletic and Port Talbot Town were relegated.
It is currently all to play for at the top of the JD Cymru North heading into 2023 with Colwyn Bay, Holywell Town and Llandudno all challenging for the title. Meanwhile, Barry Town United are leading the way in the JD Cymru South and will be desperate to make an immediate return to the JD Cymru Premier following their relegation in 2022. However, they will need to do it without long-serving manager Gavin Chesterfield who recently stepped down from his position to take over the Cardiff City Academy, and he has been replaced by former goalkeeper Lee Kendall.
Genero Adran Leagues
Swansea City claimed the Genero Adran Premier title for the sixth time and became champions for the third season in a row in April. “We’re ecstatic,” said coach Chris Church to the club website. “It’s been a long season but it’s the reward for the players, I think they deserve this accolade of winning three in a row. The work ethic of the group and the desire to achieve things that no one else believes they can achieve sets them apart from the rest of the league. That badge means everything to them and it raises their level, it raises the staff’s level as well.”
Cardiff Met finished runners-up but their performances and success in the Adran Trophy earned Yzzy Taylor the Manager of the Season award while Ffion Price and Lily Billingham of Cardiff City were named Young Player and Player of the Season respectively. Attendances made positive headlines for the Genero Adran Premier in the second part of the year as an incredible 5,175 came out to watch Cardiff City defeat Abergavenny at the Cardiff City Stadium in November, while Swansea City have attracted over 1,000 fans on two occasions when playing their domestic games at the Swansea.com Stadium.
The JD Welsh Cup Final between The New Saints and Penybont took place at the Cardiff City Stadium and it was the league champions who completed the domestic double with a 3-2 victory. The decision to take the match to the home of the Cymru national team proved to be a successful initiative in raising the profile of the competition as two goals from Jordan Williams and a penalty from top goalscorer Declan McManus ensured victory for the Saints. Penybont were three goals down but regrouped and came into the match late on through goals from Shaun MacDonald and Dan Jefferies, but it wasn't enough to avoid defeat in front of over 2,400 fans.
Cardiff City defeated Cardiff Met to lift the FAW Women's Cup at Penybont's SDM Glass Stadium back in April as goals from Seren Watkins and Lily Billingham sealed the victory for Iain Derbyshire's side, while Connah's Quay Nomads lifted the first silverware of the season at the same venue two months before with their penalty shoot-out win over Cardiff Met in the Nathaniel MG Cup Final. Mold Alexandra claimed the FAW Amateur Trophy with a 1-0 win over Baglan Dragons at Caersws through a Daniel Warren goal. Meanwhile, Emily Allen scored the only goal of the game for Cardiff Met as they claimed the Adran Trophy with a 1-0 win over Cardiff City at Dragon Park.
A goal from Ryan Brobbel earned The New Saints a 1-0 victory over Irish side Linfield at Park Hall on their return to the UEFA Champions League in July, but a 2-0 defeat in the return match at Windsor Park meant that their European campaign would continue in the UEFA Europa Conference League. Drawn against Víkingur Reykjavík, Anthony Limbrick's side went down 2-0 in the away leg before holding their opponents to a 0-0 draw, but it was not enough to prevent their exit from the competition. It was a short and frustrating European campaign that would later cost Limbrick his job.
There was a better return for Newtown manager Chris Hughes as his side knocked-out HB Torshavn on penalties in the opening round of the UEFA Europa Conference League. Lifumpa Mwandwe scored the decisive spot-kick in his final game for the club. However, the side would go down 6-2 on aggregate to Slovakian outfit Spartak Trnava in the next round. With only three European entrants, Bala Town completed the line-up but were defeated by Irish side Sligo Rovers in a penalty shoot-out despite claiming a famous 1-0 win in the away leg of their tie.
Swansea City headed to Greece for their UEFA Women's Champions League qualifier against PAOK but suffered a 2-0 defeat in the mini-tournament, and then lost 7-0 to Hungarian side Ferencvaros in the third-place play-off. In the UEFA Futsal Champions League, Futsal Club Cardiff suffered three defeats in their three qualifiers in Estonia back in August to exit the competition at the first stage.
Cymru C success over England
There was a famous night at Caernarfon Town in March as Mark Jones' Cymru C team, made up of players from the JD Cymru Leagues, claimed a memorable 4-0 win over England C. Two goals each from Will Evans and Aeron Edwards in the opening half proved to be the difference in front of over 1,400 fans. Christian Edwards was named assistant manager of the side in what was his final season in charge of Cardiff Met, while Mael Davies of Penybont was named in the squad ahead of claiming the JD Cymru Premier Young Player of the Season award for the second year running.
Coming up in 2023
Bala Town and holders Connah's Quay Nomads will compete for the first silverware of the season when they meet in the Nathaniel MG Cup Final while there will be plenty of interest in the business end of both the JD Welsh Cup and FAW Women's Cup. The New Saints will be confident of retaining their JD Cymru Premier title following a strong start to the campaign and manager Craig Harrison will relish a return to the UEFA Champions League while three other clubs will have the opportunity to make an impression in the UEFA Europa Conference League. The domestic women's game continues to grow and develop, and Cardiff City will be looking to end the current dominance of champions Swansea City in the Genero Adran Premier and with it claim a place in the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifiers.