Saturday 13 May 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the first unofficial Cymru Women’s fixture, which took place at Stebonheath Park, Llanelli against the Republic of Ireland.
With women’s football becoming increasingly popular in Britain during the 1920’s, the fact that that it was banned was clearly a sign of a very different time. The ban remained in place until the early 1970’s when a Cymru team took to the field in a one-off match against the Republic of Ireland. Gaynor Blackwell and Gloria O’Connell were on target in the 3-2 defeat, but the match was significant in that it started a period of sporadic international fixtures under a number of different coaches and managers.
Unconnected to the FAW at the time, Ida and Danny Driscoll together with Tony and Pat Quelch were key names in the women’s game in Wales during that era, and they played an important role in the team becoming completely independent towards the end of the decade. In July 1978, a team managed by Tony Sully and Billy Davies were even invited to compete at a tournament in Pescara, Italy. However, the appointment of former England international Sylvia Gore as manager in February 1979 brought stability to the side and she remained in charge until April 1989.
The FAW has records of 27 matches taking place between 1973 and 1993, when the official team was formed and played its first fixture against Iceland in Afan Lido. More than 200 matches later, Gemma Grainger is Cymru’s third full-time manager, building on the work of predecessors Jarmo Matikainen and Jayne Ludlow. A veteran of more than 125 caps, Jess Fishlock has witnessed more change first-hand than anyone else in the history of the women’s game in Wales. There are many others who have played a vital role over the years in establishing the team of today and it’s not possible to name them all. But it is the mutual love and respect between the players of the past and the present that shows the recognition for the part each has played in this incredible and far from finished journey. For them, we say thank you.
Cymru squad v Republic of Ireland (13 May 1973)
Sherryl EVANS, Sandra HUNT, Valerie BEVAN, Michele ADAMS, Jackie PURCHASE, Tina COSATORI, Kay MERRILL, Gaynor BLACKWELL, Gloria O’CONNELL, Gillian BYRON, Sandra BRETAG, Pat GRIFFITHS, Sue JOHNSON, Shelley WINTERS, Marlene MAYER-HUGHES, Mai GRIFFITH, Julie YALE.