The long journey to the 135th JD Welsh Cup Final begins for 188 clubs this weekend as Qualifying Round 1 takes place. But while many of the clubs involved at this early stage have only ever experienced the lower levels of the domestic pyramid, there are also some more illustrious names looking to return to former glory.
In fact, six clubs that will compete in the JD Welsh Cup QR1 this weekend have played in the national league in previous years, with three of those six clubs also reaching the Welsh Cup Final and qualifying for Europe during their time in the domestic top-flight. Here’s a closer look at the ties involving those particular clubs with a trip down memory lane.
Find the full Qualifying Round 1 draw here.
Cwmbran Town v Blaenavon Blues
In terms of success, Cwmbran Town are the highest profile club to compete in the JD Welsh Cup this weekend. The inaugural winners of the then-named League of Wales in 1992/93, Cwmbran Town were the first Welsh club to enter the UEFA Champions League the following season, but were narrowly eliminated by Cork City despite winning their home leg. The club would qualify for Europe a further five times over the next decade. In addition, Cwmbran Town have reached the JD Welsh Cup Final on three occasions (1996/97, 1999/00 & 2002/03) but were runners-up every time.
Cwmbran Town were relegated from the JD Cymru Premier in 2006/07 after finishing bottom of the table. Now competing in the Gwent County League Premier Division, Tier 4 in the pyramid system, the club continue to play at the Cwmbran Stadium. Following the appointment of Damien and Dominic Broad together with Danny Elliott as their new management team during the summer, there is a clear ambition to deliver the success that has been missing from a club that holds a significant place in the history of the domestic game in Wales.
Port Talbot Town v Rockspur
It was thirteen years ago that Port Talbot Town enjoyed their finest hour as under the management of current Sgorio commentator Mark Jones, the side from South Wales reached the JD Welsh Cup Final and qualified for the UEFA Europa League. However, failure to achieve the domestic licence ahead of the 2016/17 season brought relegation, and the side have since slipped into Tier 3 as they now prepare for a second campaign in the Ardal South West.
Promoted to the League of Wales in 1999/00, the club quickly established themselves in the top division, and after losing two semi-finals reached the JD Welsh Cup Final in 2009/10, but were defeated 3-2 by Bangor City. Jonathan Davies, a youth player at the club two decades ago, is now preparing for his second season as manager and his side will have home advantage over Rockspur who play a division below them in the West Wales Premier League, but will not be taken them granted following their promotion as champions of the Swansea Senior League last year.
Ton Pentre v West End
It was back in 1921/22 that Ton Pentre reached their only JD Welsh Cup Final as they went down to a 2-0 defeat to Cardiff City at Taff Vale Park in Pontypridd, with a reported 8,000 fans in attendance. Now competing in the South Wales Alliance League (Tier 4), Ton Pentre enjoyed a short spell in the top division between 1993/94 and 1996/97, achieving two third-place finishes and qualifying for Europe via the UEFA Intertoto Cup in just their second season.
However, European football was not as lucrative for competing clubs as it is today, and the group stage of UEFA’s now-defunct competition proved to be a considerable expense for the Rhondda club. Conceding 99 goals during the 1996/97 season, Ton Pentre returned to the Welsh League and have remained outside of the JD Cymru Premier ever since.
Welshpool Town v Llansantffraid Village
An established name in mid-Wales football circles having been founded in 1878, Welshpool Town were relegated from the top division in 1997/98 but returned for the 2003/04 and remained there until the league was restructured with 12 clubs ahead of the 2010/11 season. Now competing in the Ardal North East, Welshpool Town finished in ninth place last season and can expect a difficult test against league rivals Llansantffraid Village in the opening round of the JD Welsh Cup following their recent promotion.
Cemaes Bay v Talysarn Celts
Promoted to the League of Wales ahead of the 1995/96 campaign, Cemaes Bay would spend just three years in the top flight before finishing bottom of the table with only nine points in 1997/98. Finishing runners-up in the North Wales Coast West Division One last season, Cemaes Bay have now moved up to the Premier Division (Tier 4) and will take on Talysarn Celts of the same division this weekend with both clubs optimistic of progressing having avoided teams from a higher league.
Pwllheli v Llangefni Town
Of all our featured clubs, Llangefni Town had the shortest spell in the national league as their time in the domestic top-flight was restricted to just one season. Promoted in 2006/07 and relegated without return in 2007/08, the club currently competes in the Ardal North West (Tier 3) and finished in sixth place last season. Manager James Saxon has strengthened his squad with a number of new signings over the last couple of weeks, but opponents Pwllheli will also be boosted by their promotion that will see them join Llangefni Town in the same division this year.