North Wales’ 10 greatest sporting highlights of 2019

What a moment! Ynys Môn are crowned Inter-Island Games football champions. Picture: Dai Sinclair

North Wales has produced some wonderful sporting successes during 2019 and the task of whittling them all down to the 10 best was no easy feat.

However, I’ve managed to come up with this effort.

The order of the top 10 is not solely based on magnitude of achievement.

For instance, Jade Jones winning her first world taekwondo title surpasses all else on paper every time, but this is also a personal list and as people we sometimes see levels of triumph differently.

Is the gifted, model student who never failed a test and gets 10 straight A’s in their A-Levels a bigger achiever than the person who had struggled throughout their schooling, had to work 10 times harder than most, but managed to attain 3 A’s when few gave them a hope?

Sometimes perspective outweighs fact.

1 International Inter-Games Football Tournament 2019 – against all odds Ynys Môn men claim gold and the ladies take silver

Ynys Môn women rejoice after an amazing semi-final win over Jersey. Picture: Dai Sinclair

Anyone involved in this amazing event which took place across Anglesey between June 15-21 will never forget it.

Before a ball was kicked, Ynys Môn men, who had won Island Games football gold for the only time in 1999, were regarded as reasonable prospects to make the semi-finals of their 10-team tournament.

Anglesey’s women, however, had no Island Games form to speak of, having won just one of their previous 14 matches in the competition. They had picked a talented squad with plenty of experience, but no-one knew how they might perform in the six-team contest.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The men topped their group, beating Western Isles (2-1), Orkney (3-1) and Jersey (1-0) to set up a semi-final against Shetland which they won 2-1.

In front of a crowd well in excess of 3,000 at the New Stadium, Holyhead, Ynys Môn then recovered from a goal down in the final to beat Guernsey 2-1, Liam Morris and Mel McGinness firing the hosts to glory. Unforgettable scenes.

Goalkeeper Paul Pritchard had a magnificent match for Anglesey, saving a crucial penalty and producing a number of other classic stops.

What a photo! John Elfryn Owen of Llannerchymedd is in the perfect spot as Mel McGinness fires home Ynys Môn’s winner in the final v Guernsey

Ynys Môn women won their group opener 3-1 against Western Isles before losing 3-2 to Hitra, but they advanced to the semis after topping their section on goal difference.

Anglesey then pipped Jersey 1-0 in the last four to secure a meeting with Isle of Man in the final, held before the men’s showdown at Holyhead Hotspur FC’s ground.

After conceding two first-half goals, Môn fought back brilliantly in the second 45 minutes, pulling one back through 16-year-old Catrin Evans, but it was not quite enough and IoM clung on for a 2-1 success.

Nonetheless, a silver medal was a magnificent achievement and Ynys Môn produced the women’s tournament top-scorer in Lexi Crawley.

2 Jade Jones – world taekwondo champion for the first time

The amazing Jade Jones (right). Picture: Getty Images

Double Olympic champion Jade Jones secured the first world title of her career with a 14-7 victory over defending champion Lee Ah-reum in the final at Manchester.

The Flint wonder woman, who claimed world silver in 2011, had lost in the semi-finals to the South Korean at the previous World Championships in 2017.

Jones has now claimed two Olympic titles, as well as European Championship, European Games, Grand Prix, Youth Olympic and world gold medals during her career. She is targeting an historic third Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

3 Tesni Evans retains British squash title

Tesni Evans of Wales (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

The 27-year-old from Rhyl defended her British Championship crown in straight sets against North Wales-based England representative Emily Whitlock in February.

Evans had become the first Welsh squash player to win the title in 2018.

This year’s success qualified Evans for the PSA World Tour Finals in Cairo, Egypt.

Ranked number 9 in the world, she also won the Welsh Nationals in March and reached the quarter-finals of the World Championship and US Open.

4 Penrhyn Bay football girls win FAW Under-16 Welsh Cup

Welsh Cup joy for Penrhyn Bay Girls

In a quadruple-winning season, the highlight for Penrhyn Bay was winning the Welsh Cup – beating the best South Wales had to offer to be crowned national knockout champions.

Ian Morgan and John Bradley’s side defeated Villa Dino Christchurch 3-2 in the final at Aberystwyth, Ella Jones bagging a hat-trick.

Bay had already secured the North Wales Girls U-16 League title, League Cup and Welsh Cup before completing a four-timer by winning the North Wales Coast FA U-16 Cup with a 2-0 victory over main rivals NFA in a fantastic final at St Asaph.

5 Connah’s Quay Nomads reach Scottish Challenge Cup Final

Michael Bakare put Nomads ahead in the final. Pic: Nik Mesney, NCM Media

Connah’s Quay became the first club from outside Scotland to reach the Scottish Challenge Cup final since the competition was first expanded to include guest teams from other countries in 2016-17.

Welsh Premier outfit Nomads had a fantastic run in the tournament, winning away at Falkirk (1-0) and Queen’s Park (2-1), as well as seeing off Northern Ireland’s Coleraine (2-0) before pipping Edinburgh City on penalties in the semi-finals.

Next came a tougher proposition in Ross County, who had been relegated from the Scottish Premier League the season before.

The final at Caledonian Stadium, Inverness, saw Nomads take a 22nd minute lead through Michael Bakare.

Quay remained in front until the 75th minute when substitute Josh Mullin levelled for the Staggies.

The momentum had now swung and County’s better stamina told as Mullin soon made it 2-1 before a third goal from Jamie Lindsay clinched the cup.

6 Llandudno Rugby Club storm to first Division One North title – then complete the double

History-makers: Llandudno Rugby Club – Division One North champions 2018-19

The Goats landed the Division One North championship and North Wales Senior Cup double for the first time in their history.

For so many years the likes of Nant Conwy, Pwllheli and Caernarfon had dominated the list of champions, but this was the campaign where the Maesdu Road men took command.

Tudno won the title in some style, finishing 18 points ahead of nearest challengers Pwllheli after winning 19 of their 20 matches.

Llandudno were beaten just once, 18-7 at Bala in February, and clinched the title with a 61-12 away massacre of Bethesda before closing out like true champions by winning 65-24 at Pwllheli.

And more glory was to come as Tudno beat old rivals Nant Conwy 18-11 in the North Wales Cup final.

7 Catrin Jones – weightlifting gold in Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth glory: Catrin Jones. Picture: Weightlifting Wales

Bangor University student Catrin Jones won gold at the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in Samoa in July.

The 20-year-old was also in PB breaking form as she dominated her rivals to win the Commonwealth junior title.

Jones, who studies psychology, already had happy memories of competing in Samoa having won the Commonwealth Youth Games title there in 2015.

And it was gold again in 2019 after a snatch of 77k, clean and jerk of 96 for a total of 173 kg.

Welsh weightlifters performed fantastically as a whole in Samoa, Commonwealth Games champ Gareth Evans of Holyhead finishing second in the 67 kg category.

Fifteen-year-old Josh Lynch claimed silver in the Youth event with Michael Farmer runner-up in the junior 67 kg category.

Hannah Powell also scooped silver in the senior champs.

8 Kilmarnock 0 Connah’s Quay Nomads 2 (Europa League)

Ryan Wignall heads home for Nomads at Rugby Park. Picture: Nik Mesney, NCM Media

By far one of the finest results achieved by a Welsh Premier club in 26 years of competing in Europe.

Having lost the first leg of this Europa League tie 2-1 at Rhyl the previous week, Nomads travelled to Ayrshire as rank outsiders to knock out the team which finished third in the Scottish Premier League last season.

Yet after riding their luck in the first half at Rugby Park, with keeper Lewis Brass outstanding, Andy Morrison’s men disrupted Killie’s flow in the second period and took a surprise lead through Ryan Wignall’s 50th-minute header.

Then on 79 minutes, Nomads substitute Jamie Insall raced into the box and was hauled down by Stuart Findlay. The home player was red carded and Callum Morris made it 2-0 from the spot.

Despite late pressure from the hosts, and the sending off of Wignall, last season’s Welsh Premier runners-up held on for a famous win.

9 Cefn Albion win FAW Trophy

Albion celebrate their famous FAW Trophy success. Photo supplied by Cefn Albion FC

Albion’s finest achievement yet in their short but successful history as they lifted the national FAW Trophy.

The Welsh National League Premier Division side rattled in six goals in each of their first three ties – against Johnstown Youth, Saltney Town and FC Nomads – before coasting past Bow Street 3-0 in the last 16.

The quarter-final brought arguably their best result in their tournament – a 5-3 away victory against a Corwen outfit that was beating pretty much everyone at the time – then came a great 3-1 win over STM Sports in the semis.

In the final, Cefn were expected to struggle against a Pontardawe Town side which had whipped highly-fancied Bodedern Athletic 5-0 in the penultimate stage.

Yet the Albion hit new heights again to lift the Trophy with a 4-0 triumph, Nathan Williams, Conner Kendrick, Kian Morris and Jamie Foulkes with a goal each.

Cefn rounded off the season by winning the Welsh National League Premier Division Cup for a second time to be named Grassroots North Wales Team of the Year.

10 Holyhead Rugby Club make national headlines – of the positive kind

Holyhead in action against Brackla. Picture: Panda Prints

Back in 2013/14, Holyhead Rugby Club endured national notoriety after suffering what was believed to be a Welsh club record 181-0 defeat at Llanidloes.

Fast forward to 2019 and the picture is very different.

Holyhead are now one of the strongest teams in Division Three North and pushing hard for promotion.

Not only that, the much-strengthened Holy Islanders are also into the quarter-finals of the national WRU Shield.

Holyhead are the only North Wales club still involved in the latter stages of the national knockout competitions at a senior level entering 2020.

The islanders will visit Cardiff Saracens in the last eight on January 11, having already knocked out South Wales sides Brackla and Llanrumney.

  • * Like everyone else, I am human and there may be one or two amazing achievements that have slipped my mind. If you can think of anything (serious suggestions only please) feel free to get in touch at
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