Abermule

Saturday 31st December 2022 14.00
Central Wales League North (step four)
Abermule 3 Kerry 1 HT: 2-1 Att: 198
Pryce 30, 68 Humphreys 37, : Mumford 29

from Abermule Community Field

I’m normally quite meticulous in my preparation to visit a new ground, leaving plenty of time to get there, enough for a look round and a pint in a decent pub. Uncharacteristically today, I was incredibly laissez-faire in my preparations. On sticking my phone on its magnetic holder in my car, Google Maps told me I’d get to Abermule at 14.12, 12 minutes after kick off. I had two back-ups, Forden United and Bishops Castle Town, both in the same direction. Forden United had postponed (waterlogged pitch) and Bishop’s Castle had the slightly more favourable ETA of 14.05. It was a rookie error on my part; it wasn’t as if I was doing anything important before. I was poring over my parkrun stats, having ran Conkers (near Burton-on-Trent) at 9.00 that morning.

So the challenge was on to beat Google Maps down to an ETA of less than 14.00. If it was an old style SatNav this would be a doddle, as those bespoke devices always underestimated how quick you could go on A roads. Motorways were harder, but I reckon I’d be able to knock an old SatNav down to 13.45 on the minor roads from Stoke to Montgomeryshire. However, Google Maps is a different beast, which sometimes seems to have otherworldly knowledge about your journey, that could only be divined by the stars or the reading of burnt offerings. It’ll sometimes claim your seven miles to go will take 30 minutes, to which you shake your head smugly, as there is no traffic or other interruption; only to find the damn AI is spot on, as you’re stuck at one after another red traffic light, on a 3 minute turnaround.

To beat a Google Maps ETA it sometimes feels like you have to approach the speed of light, just to shave a minute off it. You can sail through yellow or even red bits of road that it believes are backed up, without stopping, but still the time doesn’t budge. However, the 70-mile journey down the A53, round Shrewsbury, and onward into East Wales and Montgomeryshire was smooth. The minutes did come down, albeit slowly, with the odd step back when I got stuck behind a truck or slow driver. At the Shrewsbury ring road, it was down to about 14.05, I reckon I could do it. Bishop’s Castle Town was now gettable to in time for kick off, but I was adamant about watching the top of the table clash and what’s known as the Dingle Derby at Abermule. Kerry were unbeaten with a record of 11,2,0 in 13 games, having scored an average of three per game. Abermule were not far behind with a record of 9,1,3.

Amazingly, I did manage to get to Abermule Primary School, where the ground sits behind, at 13.59. Alas, the dramatic film script timing was spoilt slightly by the ref kicking things off a few minutes early. It was ok, though, still 0-0 and no unexpected postponement. What was unexpected though, was the crowd. There were no proper spaces left to park at the school, despite the car park being large, as drivers were forced to park on the roads nearby (I created my own space in the school, almost grounding my car in the process). The official attendance was 198 – a superb turnout.

There’s only 4.5 miles between Abermule and Kerry, both of which lie slightly west of Newtown. I believe it is called the Dingle derby due to the hill to the north known as the Dingle. Both villages have populations of less than 1,000, so the almost 200 crowd today was all the more impressive. Abermule have been going since 1969 and their small stand was put in place in 1989. This is the highest level they’ve played at, having spent most of their history in the Montgomeryshire League. Kerry FC go way back to 1876 although they have reformed on at least one occasion since then. They also have a history of playing in the Montgomeryshire League.

The ground has a splendid backdrop as you come in with some high hills, just beyond which lies the 13th century remains of Dolforwyn Castle. With the school behind you, the one stand is down the left side, with the dugouts beside it. The rest is a railed pitch, which with the recent heavy rains was very heavy, bumpy and difficult to play on. Despite this, both sides were really up for the derby and tried to play the best football they could. Kerry looked the slightly sharper of the two teams and after 29 minutes Mumford smashed home a two-yard finish from a fierce cross that evaded the Mule keeper. The game reminded me of school football with all the mud and the bumpy surface, with what seemed like a very heavy ball, the type that if smacked into your leg, would sting like hell and leave a red circular mark for weeks, like some football Turin shroud.

Abermule responded immediately when Pryce’s close-range shot was fumbled through the Kerry keeper’s hands. And just eight minutes later Humphreys headed in off the far post from a corner to make it 2-1. It could have been more as throughout the first half the Kerry keeper made some brilliant saves from what looked like banker goals. In the second half, it could’ve gone either way as both teams continued their high energy performances, but it was one piece of individual skill that decided it. Scorer of the first goal, Pryce, beat a player down the middle and kept going, beating two more defenders before coolly slotting it under the keeper for 3-1. It was a great bit of skill for any level of football. Kerry were staring at their first league defeat and it was nothing less than Abermule deserved. A really great advert for mid-Wales village football at a picturesque venue. I had the added bonus of Clive Duncley joining me, a hopper I hadn’t seen in a while and was delighted to catch up with.

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