There really is a genuine romance that surrounds the Welsh Cup, and already this year it’s written us a handful of stories.
None more so than this season’s quarter-final stage. Penydarren’s attempt of sparking one of the Cup’s biggest upsets of all time when they visited Bangor City last weekend, and Connah’s Quay eliminating favourites TNS. Newtown’s win over Llandudno was not without drama and Aberystwyth’s passage into the semi-finals was never completely comfortable – even when 3-0 up against spirited Carmarthen.
The Welsh Cup might well be 141 years old but, much like my old gran, bless her, she still continues to entertain, intrigue and produce the unexpected.
Across the border, it’s heartbreaking to see the FA Cup – which is as a grand a club competition you’re ever likely to see – diminish in value year upon year.
Earlier this season, even modest AFC Bournemouth – with next to nothing to play for by the time they entered the famous third round – opted to heavily rotate their team and lost accordingly 3-0 at League One Wigan. Bournemouth might as well not have bothered entering. For a small club who don’t have a history of notable success, what would have been the harm in embracing the competition and attempting to go as far as possible? For a team of Bournemouth’s stature the cup competitions are realistically their only ever chance of silverware, but reaping the rewards of remaining in the Premier League is evidently more important than challenging to win something. What will be most remembered in 50 years time, finishing 14th in the Premier League or the year they had a great cup run? The trend now is such that even Championship level clubs frequently now field weakened teams to preserve their varying league hopes. Premier League money has certainly corrupted one of English football’s biggest prizes, so much so, one wonders whether the damage done will ever be repairable.
Back here, Welsh domestic football is not without its faults but as far as the Welsh Cup goes, it gets it right. The teams, the players, the spectators, the FAW and lead broadcaster all give the competition the respect it deserves and the competition rewards us accordingly.
The semi-finals this year are both wonderfully poised: two top-six teams and two bottom-six teams, two of the WPL’s leading sides in recent seasons and two traditional top-flight clubs, two northern based teams and two mid-Wales rivals. It’s all very finely balanced and I wouldn’t like to be the Rondo Media chief who has to make the final decision on which game to broadcast live – if pushed, I’d probably lean towards the Newtown-Aberystwyth tie on the basis it’s a derby.
All four teams have a great chance of reaching the final and once there, as all great cup competitions have taught us, anything can happen.