The JD Welsh Cup returns this weekend as clubs across the country compete in the 2nd qualifying round. Pontyclun FC exited the competition at this stage last season, but long-serving manager Barry Quinn believes his squad are more determined than ever to achieve success in this campaign.
“We’ve started the season well so we will see where that takes us,” said Quinn to FAW.cymru this week. “Our squad probably has a bit more depth than last year, and we might still bring a couple more in before the window closes. We’re happy with the boys that we’ve brought in so far and the atmosphere is better than I’ve ever known it. We stayed undefeated in pre-season and we’ve carried that on. We’ve got some tough games coming up, but the boys are looking forward to those challenges as that’s what it’s all about.”
Pontyclun narrowly missed out on the chance of promotion last season when they lost their decisive final day fixture to Ynyshir Albions. As a result of the 3-1 defeat, their opponents finished one place and one point above them in the table, and won the subsequent play-off match against Abertillery Bluebirds to take their place in the JD Cymru South. The ambition for Pontyclun now is to go one step better in the Ardal South West this season, and Quinn believes the pain of last season can motivate his squad to achieve success.
“It was agonising at the time to miss out at the final hurdle,” he explained. “We could have still won the league going into the final day or finished second and earned a place in the play-offs, but we ended up third. Ynyshir deserved it on the day, but it’s given our boys the motivation to go one better this season and move to the next level. The ambition is definitely there within the club, but we’re under no illusions about how difficult it’s going to be.”
Penydarren Seniors BGC will visit Ivor Park on Saturday in the JD Welsh Cup, and while Pontyclun won a fiercely-contested league fixture against them 3-0 earlier this month, Quinn will not be taking his opponents for granted. “Penydarren are one of the best sides at this level,” he added. “We’ve had a good rivalry with them for a number of years now and I have a huge admiration for them. It was a feisty match between us a few weeks ago but that was because we are two fully-committed sides, and we will have to be even better this Saturday to get ourselves in the hat for the next round.
“The committee always mention the Welsh Cup prize money to me! The cost of living affects clubs as well as households, and as we’re a community-based club, that money is massive for us. Everything we raise goes back into improving the facilities here, and the difference at the ground now to ten years ago is credit to everyone involved behind the scenes. We rely on the support of our community and they can see the improvements that are being made because of it. We are also extremely grateful to the support we have received from the FAW and the interest they have shown in our ground improvement projects, which has also made a lot of what we have done possible.”
Pontyclun were formed in 1896 and recently celebrated their 125th anniversary, an incredible achievement in itself for a small village football club. But nearby Pontyclun RFC were formed just a year later in 1897, and also continue to thrive. For Quinn, it represents the value and importance sport in general plays in such a community, and why it is vital that continued investment is made to ensure they can provide such a crucial outlet for youngsters in the area. “These clubs are institutions in the local areas and are vital for the development of young people,” he explained. “We have around 450 junior players at our club alone, and it gives them something to be involved in and to be a part of.”
Quinn himself understands from his own experience just how important sport is to the local community. His involvement with Pontyclun began as a junior player with the U10 team before he progressed through the ranks and eventually captained the first team for a number of years. After a broken leg brought his playing career to an end, he began coaching and became first team manager over a decade ago, a role he combines with supporting the committee with their fundraising efforts and all the voluntary unseen tasks that make it possible for clubs to continue at this level. “I didn’t have any grey hair when I started,” he added. “But I have plenty of that now!
“Over the years, and still today, a lot of youngsters play rugby and football for the two clubs in the village,” explained Quinn. “We have a brilliant relationship with the rugby club and we always support each other when it comes to fundraising events, and a lot of people in the community support both teams. The need to develop facilities is the biggest thing because we have so many children involved with both clubs that training facilities are in short supply. We want to facilitate more teams and training sessions, but it’s not always possible as we are at capacity, and we have a waiting list of players wanting to join. We’re trying to do everything we can to grow with the demand as we don’t want to have to turn anyone away.”
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JD WELSH CUP ROUND 1 DRAW
The FAW Cup Draw Show will be broadcast at 8pm on Monday, 22 August across Facebook, YouTube and FAW.Cymru.