At the most southern tip of the Rhymney Valley sits the historic town of Caerphilly. Most famous for the massive Norman castle (the second largest castle in Britain) in the town’s centre and the eponymous cheese, Caerphilly, until recent times, barely surfaced on the Welsh football map.
In the past decade or so the town has provided the Welsh national team two internationals in Robert Earnshaw and Aaron Ramsey. The Caerphilly (County Borough) Centre for Sporting Excellence (opened in 2014) has some of the best football facilities in South Wales and currently plays host to two Welsh Football League clubs, including Trethomas Bluebirds (originating from a village close to Caerphilly) who are at present the closest the town of Caerphilly has to a representative in the Welsh Football League.
However, a club from the town is now making a move through the South Wales pyramid, Caerphilly Athletic; based in the heart of the town centre at Morgan Jones Park, a mere stone’s throw from the castle.
The name Caerphilly Athletic is newly adopted for this season. The club started out as ‘Dynamo Aber FC’, formed 10 years ago by current manager Luke Ganderton and other Caerphilly players. Their rise has been spectacular from those humble roots and after back to back promotions they are currently in the South Wales Alliance Premier League, one tier below the Welsh Football League. They are certainly a club on the up.
Changing the name has been an essential part of helping the club grow, enabling them to identify and market themselves as a club representing the whole town. Ganderton said:
“After ten successful years as Dynamo Aber FC…we decided to change the club name to Caerphilly Athletic to help push the club to the next level.”
“We have set up youth sides and have had a lot more success from local businesses with sponsorships. The club is definitely going in the right direction and we are looking forward to the future.”
The aspirations for the future are big and Ganderton wants to see the club push even further up the pyramid.
“Since I set up Dynamo Aber ten years ago as a player/manger with other local Caerphilly boys the team has come on so well; the lads are so determined to get the club as far as possible. The Welsh [Football] League is the goal and I’m sure the lads will get there in the next few seasons.”
This weekend Athletic will host tier 2 side Penrhyncoch (of the Cymru Alliance) in the second round of the Welsh Cup. Dynamo Aber did reach this stage of the competition in the 2014/15 season, but hosting a tier 2 club is probably the biggest game in the Caerphilly club’s history.
Although they are facing a side positioned three tiers higher and likely to be huge underdogs, Athletic have a record of carrying out ‘giant killings’. Their progress in the FAW Trophy this season has seen them beat Welsh Football League sides Neuadd Wen and Newport City. Ganderton is excited by the challenge of facing another bigger club and believes in his side:
“We are so looking forward to playing Penrhyncoch in the Welsh Cup and would love to go one step further this time with Caerphilly Athletic as [Dynamo Aber] missed out in a [3-2] defeat [against Tiger Bay] two seasons ago in the second round.”
“We don’t know much about Penrhyncoch, we will focus on what we are good at and I know we will put up a good fight. My squad is super fit and scary at times [and] they have a very good future ahead. The lads have nothing to be afraid of.”
Their recent pedigree in the cups suggests they will be no pushover at the weekend and for the moment, Ganderton is happy for the cup runs to take the focus over the league campaign:
“As it’s our first season in the South Wales Alliance Premier Division, we thought it might take us a season to settle in so the cup runs have come as a massive bonus, beating a few Welsh [Football] League clubs to get the fourth round of the FAW Trophy and the second round of the Welsh Cup.”
(Featured Image: Rhys Gerallt Owen)