The Welsh Cup’s first-ever Holy Island derby is almost upon us.
On Saturday, September 28, Holyhead Hotspur will host Holyhead Town in the most eagerly anticipated football match to be held in the port for many years.
As recently as June, Hotspur’s New Stadium staged the finals of the 2019 Inter-Island Games football tournament.
More than 3,000 spectators witnessed Ynys Môn beat Guernsey 2-1 in the men’s final and earlier in the day Anglesey’s ladies beaten narrowly 2-1 in their showpiece by Isle of Man.
A huge occasion indeed, but Saturday’s Welsh Cup second qualifying round tussle between the two town clubs will have perhaps that little more edge to it, with those all-important bragging rights at stake.
What makes the tie more attractive is the fact both teams are in such fine form.
Hotspur lie second in Welsh Alliance Division One with six wins in seven starts and having banged in 29 goals in seven victories from eight games in all competitions this term.
Town, meanwhile, are top of Welsh Alliance Division Two, with 33 goals amassed in eight games across league and cup and, like their port rivals, have just one loss on the ledger.
Hotspur have come down from the tier-two Cymru North this season, but have adjusted well to life back in the Welsh Alliance, a league they have won twice previously.
Town, known as the Harbourmen, are in their second campaign in Division Two, having lifted back-to-back Anglesey and Gwynedd league titles since the club’s latest rebirth in 2016.
Hotspur were formed as recently as 1990, while Town first emerged in the 1920s, competing in the Welsh National League, North Wales Football Combination and North Wales Coast League before beginning a long stay in the Welsh League North in 1935/36.
They were champions of that league (which later became the Welsh Alliance) four-times in a close-on 40-year membership before dropping into the Anglesey League in 1975-76.
Since then Town have flitted between the Anglesey, Gwynedd and Welsh Alliance leagues and also went out of existence between 1998 and 2009, and then from 2012/13 to 2015/16.
Hotspur have been the premier club representing Holyhead for well beyond 20 years, many of which they spent in the second-tier Cymru Alliance. In 2008-09 they finished second in that league.
Saturday will see both Hotspur and Town meet in fairly healthy state.
While Darren Garmey’s Hotspur will begin as favourites with home advantage and being from a league above, the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.
First ever meeting?
Much talk has been circulating in the weeks before this tie as to whether it will be the first time Hotspur and Town have met at first team level.
A look at the Anglesey League table from 1991/92 in the Welsh Football Data Archive shows both clubs feature.
However, in that same season, a team called Holyhead United is seen in the next level up Gwynedd League standings.
This could be a misprint, and that team in the Gwynedd League is actually Holyhead Town firsts, with the one in the Anglesey League in 1991/92 being a Town Reserves side.
The following season, 1992/93, Holyhead Town are shown as Gwynedd champions despite apparently not being involved in the league the campaign before – only the mysterious “Holyhead United”.
While there was a team functioning locally for some years called Holyhead United Juniors, a “Holyhead United” has never existed, says local author and historian Gareth Davies.
Gareth said he is “95% certain” that Hotspur and Town have NOT met at first team level before.
Former Hotspur goalkeeper Andrew Devlin says he represented the club in its first nine years and in that time their paths never crossed with Holyhead Town. That would confirm the clubs have never met competitively.
Players to watch
Some predict Saturday’s tie could turn out to be a Battle of the Strikers.
For Hotspur, Robert Llewelyn Jones (9) and Chris Jones (8) have scored 17 goals between them this term.
Meanwhile, Town’s Asa Thomas (14) and Gary Jo Owen (10) boast a combined total of 24.
Perhaps a key factor will be how the respective goalkeepers and defences perform.
In eight matches, Hotspur have conceded 10 goals, while Town have let in 17.
The time will soon be here for the talking to stop and the action to begin.
Here’s to a fantastic occasion, another feather in Holyhead’s sporting cap.
Holyhead Hotspur (WWWLWWWW)
Sep 21: Blaenau Amateurs (home – Welsh Alliance Div One) W 4-0
Sep 14: Aberffraw (h – FAW Trophy round two) W 2-1 (aet)
Sep 7: Greenfield (away – WAL D1) W 3-2
Aug 28: Llandudno Albion (a – WAL D1) L 0-3
Aug 24: Denbigh Town (h – WAL D1) W 2-1
Aug 20: Llanberis (a – WAL D1) W 4-0
Aug 13: Mynydd Llandegai (h – WAL D1) W 5-1
Aug 10: Prestatyn Sports (a – WAL D1) W 9-2
Holyhead Town (WWWWDLWW)
Sep 21: Pwllheli (home – Welsh Alliance Div Two) W 6-0
Aug 31: Amlwch Town (away – Welsh Cup QR1) W 5-3
Aug 28: Llandudno Junction (h – WAL D2) W 5-1
Aug 24: Amlwch Town (h – WAL D2) W 6-5
Aug 21: Y Felinheli (a – WAL D2) D 2-2
Aug 17: Mochdre Sports (h – WAL D2) L 1-2
Aug 14: Llandudno Amateurs (h – WAL D2) W 6-3
Aug 10: Penmaenmawr Phoenix (a – WAL D2) W 2-1
Holyhead Hotspur – main honours
Welsh Alliance League: Champions 1997/98, 2011/12
Anglesey League: Champions 1994/95, 1995/96
Gwynedd League: Champions 1996/97
Dargie Cup: Winners 1993/94, 1995/96
Megan Cup: Winners 1995/96, 2018/19 (Reserves)
Elias Cup: Winners 1995/96
Alves Cup: Winners 1997/98
Aluminium Môn Cup: Winners 1997/98, 2001/02
Cookson Cup: Winners 2011/12
Barritt Cup: Winners 2011/12
Bob Owen Memorial Shield: Winners 2012/13 (Reserves)
Meditel Gwynedd Cup: Winners 2013/14 (Reserves)
Welsh Alliance Reserves Division Cup: Winners 2016/17
Holyhead Town – main honours
Welsh League North: Champions 1949/50, 1957/58, 1963/64, 1969/70
Anglesey League: Champions 1967/68, 1969/70, 1979/80, 1985/86, 1987/88, 2016/17
Gwynedd League: Champions 1992/93, 2017/18
North Wales Coast FA Challenge Cup: Winners 1955/56, 1966/67
North Wales Coast FA Junior Cup: Winners 1987/88
Megan Cup: Winners 2016/17
Lucas Oil Cup: Winners 2016/17
Meditel Gwynedd Cup: Winners 2017/18
- Information on many of Town’s past domestic cup wins is not available