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The Carmarthenshire sporting year in retrospect

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Carmarthen Town squad

Carmarthen Town squad

IT HAS BEEN an eventful 2015 in the world of Carmarthenshire sport, with stories of success and despair throughout the county as well as countless celebrations as individuals gained recognition in national and international events. With achievements too numerous to list in full, below is a brief review of some of the county’s sporting highlights.
The Carmarthenshire Football League saw some dramatic twists and turns in the final months of the season with the Premier Division title eventually going down to a two horse race between the leagues heavyweights Seaside and an excellent Evans and Williams side who were chasing their first top flight win in the clubs history.
Eventually it was the underdogs Evans and Williams who came out on top to clinch a memorable first title, but Seaside did gain revenge as they beat the league champions in the season finale, The Carmarthenshire Senior Cup, with a 3-1 victory at Stebonheath Park.
In a successful season for three Carmarthenshire sides in the Welsh League system, Llanelli Town, Ammanford and Cwmamman United were all promoted from Division Three to Division Two. For Llanelli it was the start of a long journey to achieve their ultimate aim of regaining a place in the Welsh Premier League after their unfortunate demotion because of off the field problems. Captain Lee Bevan lifted the league trophy after a 1-0 win at home to Betws to culminate a successful season for the Reds. With all three sides playing well in Division Two, there are hopes for further good news in 2016.
It was a quiet season for the county’s three Principality Premiership rugby sides, with Carmarthen Quins, Llanelli and Llandovery all underwhelming in the league finishing in 6th, 9th and 8th respectively, although they have started the new campaign with a much greater vigour, with Llandovery in particular flying high at Christmas thanks to their exciting brand of attacking rugby. The league has also seen the introduction of a new scoring system with 6 points awarded for a try and 2 points for all kicks. The first 6-point try was scored by Pontypridd winger Alex Webber in a demolition of Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets in the first game of the season.
Newcastle Emlyn enjoyed their finest season in their history as they gained promotion to the WRU Championship and finished as runners up in the Swalec Plate final to a very good Ystrad Rhondda side, edged out by 25-17 at the home of Welsh rugby, the Millennium (now Principality) Stadium. The jump in class in the new division has taken some getting used to, but with some impressive defensive performances recently it is hoped that Emlyn will move up the division in the new year.
Carmarthen Town endured a difficult end to the 2014/15 season, with poor end of season form resulting in a 9th place finish in the Welsh Premier League. They were also removed from all cups early on in the season, which left manager Mark Aizlewood with much rebuilding to do for 2015/16. The experienced boss has assembled a youthful squad for the new season, and although there has been early exits from the cup again, Aizlewood’s new recruits have shown great promise and with the introduction of a synthetic 3G surface hoped for 2016, it is believed the young recruits will kick on again.
The Raiders Rugby League side produced a magnificent season, with plenty of success both for the team and individuals as numerous players were recognised. Five players represented Wales whilst managers Jon Ellis, Peter Tiffin and Andrew Thorne were selected to coach the Welsh national side. The team has grown from strength to strength and now boasts impressive off-field activity with a thriving merchandise section and junior teams and events.
At just 16 Lauren Davey is the best all-round athlete of her age in Wales, chalking up Welsh championship victories and has been honoured by her club, the Carmarthen Harriers. In the triple-jump event she won her age group Welsh Championship easily and she took the bronze medal at the Schools International with a leap of 11 metres 42cm, which is the fifth longest by a junior in the UK this year.
Carmarthen Athletic Hockey Club has gone from strength to strength and its success both on and off the field was recognised when it was named Club of the Year at the Hockey Wales awards ceremony at a glitzy dinner event at the Sport Wales headquarters in Sophia Gardens.
The Scarlets have had an up and down year, with the main positive being that they finished in the top six of the Guinness PRO12 and secured top table European rugby for the 2015/16 season. However with four losses from four in that competition thus far, they are already out, although they have given themselves the best chance of qualifying again with a fine start to the new season. They currently sit top of the tree at Christmas, and with only one Welsh team guaranteed to play in the Champions Cup next year, they hold a significant advantage over the other regions.
The regions fans have also been buoyed by the news of numerous resigning’s, Scott Williams, Gareth Davies and Liam Williams are amongst those to put pen to paper whilst centre Jon Davies has announced he will be rejoining the region for the start of the 2015/16 campaign. He will also be joined by flyhalf Rhys Patchell and with rumours gathering momentum that Leigh Halfpenny may be following; the Scarlets are certainly building a formidable backline.
The founder of Llanelli Warriors RFC Gwilym Lewis was recognised for his fantastic achievements when he travelled to Cardiff for the BBC Wales Sports Awards after being nominated for the Coach to Disabled People award, and although he came runner-up in the category, his achievements were celebrated on a national scale at the ceremony.
In cricket there was little to celebrate for many of Carmarthenshire first team sides as Ammanford narrowly avoided the drop from South Wales Premier Division One with Pontarddulais finishing marginally higher whilst Carmarthen Wanderers finished a lowly 10th in Division Two. Llanelli were close to triumphing in South Wales Association Division One, but Clydach pipped them to the title on a dramatic final day by just 3 points.
It was a brilliant year for Bronwydd Cricket Club however, with a fine run in the National Village Cup coinciding with a double league win, with their 1st XI winning the SWA Division Two and their 2nd XI triumphing in Division Four. The club will no doubt be eagerly awaiting the start of the new season. Dafen 2nd’s and Drefach 2nd’s were also league winners.
Penybanc Panthers have continued to grow from strength to strength with increased membership and some fantastic results resulting in call-ups for many of their players to the Scarlets Ladies set-up, and it will be hoped that 2016 brings more success and international honours for the club.
Although this is far from an exhaustive list of the counties sporting achievements, with many not included it does provide a snapshot and we at The Herald look forward to a sporting 2016 filled with success for all in our county!

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Carmarthenshire man with PTSD to run Cardiff Half for veterans

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A VETERAN from Pont-Henri in Carmarthenshire is putting his best foot forward to supporting wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans.

Anthony Spencer, 34 – who suffers with PTSD after serving two tours of Afghanistan – will be on the start-line of the Wizz Air Cardiff Half Marathon on 2 October.

And while he laughs at his “abysmal” training ahead of the event, he says he will pound the streets of Cardiff in order to raise money for True Heroes Racing – the UK’s only motorcycle race team dedicated to supporting UK Service personnel and veterans who are wounded, injured and sick:

“As a military veteran myself who still suffers with PTSD, I understand the difficulty that face those who leave the military with mental, physical or social difficulties. True Heroes Racing is a family open to anyone with military ties and I’m hoping to raise much-needed funds to continue my support for this great cause.”

Spencer joined the military as a Royal Engineer when he turned 16:

“Over the course of my career in the army, I was involved in many incidents. I was part of a frontline patrol unit working with the Afghanistan National Army.

“Perhaps the most catastrophic event was a roadside IED – an improvised explosive device – in Helmand province. It hit me a year or two later and I started drinking more and I was becoming more distant and reserved.

“Even now, it affects me. It impacts on my sleep – I only get a few hours here and there a night. And it affects my anxiety levels which make tasks such as travelling incredibly stressful. Loud noises and day-to-day stresses can seem unbearable.”

He was discharged in 2016 and since then he has thrown himself into work. Now a Chief Technical Officer for a Global Technology company.

“I managed to get a successful job. After having a rough ride of things myself but coming out the other end, I decided to try and do something good.

“There isn’t much support for veterans – medical or financial – so what this race team does is absolutely astonishing. We currently have two riders who are amputees and they are both racing at incredibly high competitive levels against able-bodied riders.”

The bikes are customised so that riders who have disabilities can race:

“The customisation is ground-breaking. We have a variety of veterans and serving personnel racing including an arm amputee so True Heroes Racing have been able to adapt the bike for him. But it all comes at a cost. Racing is an expensive sport and in many cases it can cost £40,000 or more per year to run a bike.

“We’re one big family and lots of people can get involved whether it’s as a mechanic, a photographer, a rider or helping to sell merchandise. It’s a great thing to throw your energy into after leaving the military.”

You can donate to Anthony’s  Justgiving page here: Crowdfunding to Raise vital money for a great cause http://trueheroesracing.co.uk. A unique team for military veterans and serving personal on JustGiving

The Wizz Air Cardiff Half Marathon sold out earlier this summer, just three and half months after entries going on sale.

The race is on track to generate its £20 millionth pound in fundraising at the 19th edition of the event this year. Race organisers are urging the public to get behind the event to help it reach this incredible milestone. Over £3 million is raised each year via partnerships with over 90 charities.

A record number of runners from outside Wales (both across the UK and overseas) are registered to take part this year. To celebrate, organisers will be using the event as a platform to celebrate Wales; showcasing everything that is so special and distinct about Cymru and to offer visitors a warm Welsh welcome.

The race is now a part of the SuperHalfs – an international half marathon series including races in Lisbon, Prague, Valencia, Copenhagen and Cardiff. It challengers runners to complete the five race circuit in 36 months in order to earn a ‘SuperMedal’ and other exclusive benefits/prizes.

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Old Gold earn big win over Ynyshir

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CARMARTHEN put the disappointment of the defeat against Barry Town in their last Cymru South League match well and truly behind them by inflicting this crushing victory on Ynyshir in this first ever meeting between these clubs.

And the Old Gold put the hosts under pressure from the very start with a series of penetrating attacks. As early as the 1st minute Greg Walters, in his own half, sent a superb pass through to Will Rikard who in turn set Noah Daley racing clear and into the penalty area – however, while his subtle lofted shot defeated goal-keeper Howe the ball flew narrowly over the bar.

Then on 3 minutes Bradley Gibbings sprinted along the right flank and threaded the ball through to Liam Thomas just inside the penalty area but Town’s all-time top scorer saw his crisp drive denied by Howe diving swiftly down to claim the ball.

Town continued to dominate these early stages of the game and, almost predictably, they soon took the lead. In the 13th minute Thomas, from the half-way line, sent a fine pass forward to Rikard who in turn swiftly fed the ball onto Gibbings – the influential midfielder then finished this delightful move by drilling a 15-yard shot beyond Howe’s reach and into the back of the net.

While the Old Gold maintained their hold of the game, for a short spell they seemed unable to test the Ynyshir defence in any meaningful way and with both teams too often guilty of misplacing passes there was little prospect of goalmouth action.

Yet that all changed after 37 minutes. A poor back-pass by an Albions’ defender forced Howe into making a hurried clearance – however Thomas, alert to the situation, blocked the ball at close-range and it rebounded into the net much to his delight.

Encouraged by that success Carmarthen once more began to dominate the play and on 43 minutes they extended their lead. Mathew Delaney embarked on a determined run from the half-way line to reach the by-line before sending a fine cross into the goalmouth where Thomas found space to drive the ball past Howe and into the back of the net.

Then after 45 minutes Gibbings made a strong run into the penalty area and held off two defenders before releasing a fierce shot that Howe, dropping smartly down, managed to turn around the post.

After the interval Ynyshir began positively and were soon rewarded with an early goal. On 48 minutes a smart passing move from the right-wing opened up the Town defence and finished with Cambell, in clear space on the edge of the goal area, firing the ball past goal-keeper Ivan Knott and into the back of the net.

For a spell the Old Gold defence remained under some pressure but it coped capably and no further significant threat to their goal arose.

While the rest of the match was quite evenly-balanced in open play, it was evident that Carmarthen were far more of a threat in sight of goal – and, almost predictably, they extended their lead when on 59 minutes Delaney, from the left flank, sent an inviting free-kick across the face of the goal area and saw Daley, at the far post, tap the ball into the net.

Town went close to scoring again after 71 minutes. Adam John fired a free-kick deep into the goalmouth where Lee Surman saw his close-range header blocked on the goal-line – the ball rebounded to Sam Parsons but his follow-up shot was also cleared.

However, the late frenzy of activity in and around the Albions’ penalty area did have a productive ending for the Old Gold when, deep into added time, another corner-kick reached Scott Tancock beyond the far post – he headed the ball back into the packed goalmouth where Parsons forced it into the net.

This win has consolidated Carmarthen’s position in the top six of the Cymru South League and with just 3 points currently separating those clubs every point from forthcoming matches is clearly vital – the next being against Afan Lido on October 1, at Richmond Park k/o 2.30pm.

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Late goal sees Lido beat Ammanford

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Report and photo courtesy of Ian Parfitt

AMMANFORD suffered the heartbreak of late defeat at Afan Lido on Friday night with an 87th minute winner from Liam Griffiths securing a 2-1 win and all three points for the hosts.

Afan Lido started the match on the front foot and Ammanford were clearly struggling with the pace on Lido’s flanks. A foul in the box led to a penalty for Lido in the 11th minute which was dispatched by Chris Jones.

Afan Lido were largely on top in the first half however were unable to add to their goal. Ammanford were restricted to half chances although Callum Silcox did hit the post with an angled shot.

Ammanford would have hoped for an early goal in the second half and that’s exactly what they got in the 48th minute, the excellent Jordan Langley spotting the keeper off his line and hitting a looping shot into the net from 30 yards.

This goal clearly settled Ammanford and spurred on by a vociferous away support went in search of a second goal.

Afan Lido rode their luck in the 63rd minute when Owyn Airey smashed a shot against the bar.
Callum Silcox then forced Lido keeper Steve Cann into an excellent save in the 74th minute with a rasping, long range effort.

Ammanford looked the most likely team to score and had several other opportunities which they failed to convert.

Ammanford were playing well with Morgan Clarke particularly influential in midfield.

Just when it looked as if a hard fought contest was heading for a draw Griffiths swept home from close range in the 87th minute following a Lido corner.

Ammanford frantically went in search of a second equaliser in the time that remained but this eluded them and the final whistle brought about feelings of what could have been for the away team.

Ammanford will look to put things right in their next match, a home encounter against Goytre Utd on Friday (Sept 30).

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