Cardiff City and Briton Ferry Llansawel will both be on their hunt for their second trophy of the season this weekend as the women’s domestic season reaches its conclusion with the FAW Women’s Cup final at Penydarren Park.
The two sides have enjoyed remarkable seasons in their respective leagues, with the Bluebirds being crowned Genero Adran Premier champions and Ferry sealing the Genero Adran South title.
But the pair head into this weekend’s final off the back of a contrasting seven days. Iain Darbyshire’s Bluebirds prepared for the final game of the campaign by lifting the league trophy for the first time since 2013 following a 3-1 win over rivals Swansea City on Saturday.
“There are so many positives from the season and it’s hard to put it into words. At the start of the season we said we could win every game and the longer you go ahead doing that, you start to really believe that we could be the invincibles,” said Darbyshire.
“The fact we’ve managed to pull it off in the toughest the league has ever been is a testament to the players and staff with everyone pulling together. We’re obviously buzzing with what we achieved but we can’t rest because we’ve got another cup final to look forward to and we’re the defending champions.”
While just over 24 hours after the Bluebirds got their hands on the trophy, Briton Ferry suffered play-off final heartbreak against Wrexham with a 1-0 defeat against Wrexham, missing out on a place in the Genero Adran Premier next term.
But Ferry manager Rhys James will urge his side, who lost just one league game in the 2022/23 campaign, to use the anguish against Wrexham as fuel in their season finale in Merthyr.
“It has been difficult because it means the world for the entire group,” said James, who took over from Isaac Berry at the start of the season.
“It just came down to a couple of chances that we didn’t take and they took theirs. Unfortunately football is a cruel game and that is how you win. Now we have to concentrate on the game on Sunday.
“It is a massive test in front of us in Cardiff City who are the best team in Wales. They have showed that by winning the league, so we’ve got to concentrate on that. We can’t just roll over and be pitiful of last week’s result.”
The sides have only met once previously in the last two campaigns – the Bluebirds earned a 3-1 victory in the Genero Adran Trophy last 16 this term – but there are plenty of connections between the pair.
Two friends will be in opposite dugouts on Sunday as Darbyshire and James, who both studied together during their time at the University of South Wales, get set for their second meeting.
“We were on the same course and one of my best friends was Rhys’ housemate, so we’ve know each other for a long time,” explained Darbyshire.
“He’s a really good lad and a good coach, so obviously that’s had a really positive impact on Briton Ferry. All credit to Rhys, but I won’t be his friend on Sunday until after the game!”
James added: “I think if we had sat down at the start of the season we probably could have called this because the amount Iain has built over the last couple of years, the group he has got there – he has done a fantastic job.
“It was nice to see them watch the game on Sunday and it was nice to catch up with some of their players and Iain himself. He’s done a fantastic job and they deserve all of the credit and praise they have had this year.”
It’s clear there is mutual respect between the two and, while the pair will no doubt catch up to reflect on this season, there is a final to be won and both sides will look to end what has been impressive campaigns on a high.
“We’re obviously buzzing with what we achieved but we can’t rest because we’ve got another cup final to look forward to and we’re the defending champions,” said Darbyshire.
“Last season’s FAW Women’s Cup final was one of the biggest day in our club’s history if you think about it because it’s launched what’s happened this year. We’re focused on Sunday now and we’re looking to bring the cup back.”
“I think it would come as a shock to a lot of people but I don’t think that shock is off the card,” added James.
“If we perform to our absolute best ability, there is definitely a chance we can do that. I believe in the girls and the girls believe in us as a staff, so I do think that we’ve got a really good chance. We performed so well against Aberystwyth in the previous round and if we turn up like we did on that day, there’s a real good chance that we can cause an upset.”
Ticketing information for the 2023 FAW Women’s Cup final can be found by clicking here.