Mike Hayes: Flint Mountain will relish underdog tag in JD Welsh Cup

Not many things can beat the romance of the cup, particularly when an underdog is pitted against a giant.

That’s what we’ve got on our hands this weekend, as third tier Flint Mountain, the lowest ranked side left in the competition, visit 2017 JD Welsh Cup winners and last year’s finalists Bala Town in this season’s quarter-finals. 

On paper, it certainly looks like a David vs. Goliath situation, but Flint Mountain have been a revelation in the cup this term. On their way to the last eight, they have defeated NFA, Canton, South Gower, and recorded an impressive 3-1 win over JD Cymru North highflyers Holywell Town.

Veteran striker Mike Hayes made the move to the club last summer and says no one can take away from what the club have done so far.

“It’s been a good run for us. We’ve done well in all cup competitions this season. At the start, our main focus and still our focus is the league, but it’s always nice to have a cup run. We’ve had a very good run in all the cups. I’ve won the Welsh Cup before; I know how magical it can be to win it and getting that prize at the end of European football. It’s something no one can take away from you.”

It’s been a big change for Hayes moving to the third tier. Having featured for top-flight clubs like Bala Town, Caernarfon Town, and Connah’s Quay Nomads, a move to Flint Mountain is an entirely different scene for the veteran. Despite perhaps being a bit trepidatious over the move, Hayes has been surprised by the quality in the third tier. 

“It’s been a totally different challenge, and it still is. I’ve played in the Cymru Premier for about 14 seasons, and it was a big decision to step away from that league. I wanted to take on a new challenge, with the primary focus on winning this league. 

“From speaking to the chairman and the manager Aden Shannon, the long-term aim is to be a Cymru Premier side. It’s a long-term plan that I’m really happy to be a part of, and hopefully we can push on this season, win the league, and be one step close to achieving that dream.

“Going into tier three, I didn’t really know what to expect. But the professionalism from the committee, the management, and the players is top-flight standard. We know we need to be pushing on as much as possible, and hopefully on Saturday, we can give a good account of ourselves.”

And Saturday will be the biggest test so far for Hayes and his side, as they travel to Maes Tegid to take on Bala. Hayes spent a good portion of his career with the Lakesiders and knows exactly what Colin Caton and his players are capable of.

“We’ve seen a few Bala games this season and I’ve played under Colin for a number of years. They’re going to be fit, they’re going to be organised and strong, and they’ve got a gameplan which works very well for them, which is why they’re doing so well this season. We have to do our jobs, we can’t afford to switch off, and when we get our chances it’s crucial that we take them.”

But this kind of occasion isn’t an unfamiliar one for Hayes. The striker has been involved in many cup successes before. He knows how magical the JD Welsh Cup is, he knows what it can do to a club, and he’s hoping to write another chapter in his love affair with the trophy on Saturday.

“This is an amazing cup. It’s the one cup where everyone puts their strongest team out for. Everyone wants to win every game in this competition. I was at Bala for six seasons, and I know Colin says to his team every season, it’s not the easiest route but it’s the quickest route into Europe. 

“As a result of that, I know how much focus they’re going to put on it and how much training and preparation they will put into the game. It’s down to us on the day to perform to the best of our abilities and see if we can push them as far as we can.”

Flint Mountain, along with Briton Ferry and Buckley Town are the non-Cymru Premier teams entering the quarter-finals of the JD Welsh Cup, and each will be hoping to be the architect of their own giant killing this weekend. For Hayes, he wants his side to stay focused, as he tries to take the third-tier side to the summit.

“We’ve done all we can before the game. The managers and coaches have gone through all the clips and passed on all their knowledge. It’s now down to us to be brave on the pitch, win our individual battles, and try our best. We’re the underdogs, everyone loves an underdog story, and hopefully, we’ll be able to come out on top.”

Watch Bala Town v Flint Mountain live on S4C on Saturday 17 February (KO 12:45).

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