PENARTH Hockey Club’s on-field success story has again filtered down to its junior section, with one team qualifying for the Welsh Cup finals, another narrowly missing out and a third claiming the South Wales Plate.

U13s earn shot at Welsh title

Having scraped through the qualifying process with tight victories against Bridgend and Abergavenny, a hitherto lacklustre U13 side knew that a significant improvement was essential in the South Wales Cup tournament if they were going to progress any further in pursuit of an appearance at the Welsh finals at the end of April.

From the opening push-back against hosts Swansea, however, it was evident that the Bears were hungry for success. Only a blanket defence and an exceptional performance from the Swans’ ‘keeper repelled repeated Penarth attacks, but the stand-off could not last forever, and the Vale side eventually took the lead midway through the first half.

Pegged back by a wonder strike from one of the Swansea forwards, Penarth could have let their heads drop, but maintained their composure, especially in defence as the game became more open. The excellent performance probably warranted a win, but it was fantastic to hear the Bears roaring again, and set the side up for their second game, against a wonderful Whitchurch team that looked every inch the pre-tournament favourite.

Again, Penarth showed great resilience and, shortly into the second half, the scoreline once more showed a goal apiece. The game and qualification for the Welsh finals was very much in the balance, so it was very frustrating to witness the whole Penarth team, not once, but twice back off the Whitchurch ball-carrier, allowing him to enter the D unchallenged to dispatch a brace of venous strikes to win the game.

The defeat added extra pressure to the Bears’ final game against Gwent, and it turned into an absolute thriller. Penarth ‘keeper Joe Casey was up to the task, however, producing an exceptional performance that included deflecting the ball onto the crossbar and pushing another shot across goal to safety.

The margin between success and disappointment was literally millimetres, but the chance of qualifying for Newtown appeared to be slipping away until, in the closing minutes, mercurial striker Harry Dean rampaged into the Gwent D and - unusually for him - shot on his strong side to claim a third goal of the tournament and put the Bears in a position to progress. A last-minute Gwent penalty corner added to the drama, but the opposition could not convert their final chance, confirming second spot in the tournament and a ticket to the Welsh finals for Graeme Jones’ squad.

U11s edged out in final game

With their scheduled qualifying tournament cancelled in favour of a women’s National League game, Penarth’s U11s found themselves moving straight into a five-team round-robin to determine not only the destiny of the South Wales Cup, but also the two places on offer at the Welsh finals.

However, having started the season with high hopes and a healthy squad, the Bears limped into the competition with just enough players to take the field, decimated by Eisteddfod prelims and without impressive young goalkeeper Iosi Russell, who had made great strides since first donning the helmet and pads in October.

The seven players available for the Swansea tournament included three U10s and a couple of U9s, although all had played regularly throughout the campaign of friendly competitions that preceded the Cup.

Penarth could not have asked for a tougher opening game, having been drawn against Whitchurch, but knew that a single goal had determined the majority of their previous encounters. A lone strike again proved to be the difference between the teams and, despite the Bears putting up stern resistance, replacement goalkeeper Josh Greyling – who, owing to Russell’s late withdrawal with a nasty arm injury, had never put pads on until the morning of the tournament – could do little about the fierce shot that beat him at the near post.

Game two proved the perfect tonic for the Vale side, as an under-strength Bridgend side proved no match for the constant wave of attacking hockey. With Ben Lawrence providing the principal threat down the right flank, Penarth racked up a morale-boosting 5-0 victory, with the winger leading the way with two goals to add to singles from Iwan Llewellyn, Michael O’Flaherty and Bryn Wilton.

The victory kept alive Penarth hopes of progressing to the Welsh finals, but the youngsters knew that another win, against an unpredictable Gwent side, was imperative. Again they rose to the challenge, with Llewellyn negating the opposition’s main threat and both Josh Collins and Llew Pierce defending stoutly to make the outstanding Greyling’s life a little easier.

The game appeared to be heading for a goalless stalemate, however, until a moment of individual brilliance from Wilton saw him beat two defenders and the goalkeeper to deliver the crucial strike.

With two wins under their belts, the Bears still had fate in their own hands, but required another three points from their final game, against Swansea. Again, both sides had enjoyed success against the other during the season, and the game proved to be an end-to-end affair. Unfortunately for Penarth, Lady Luck proved to be a homer, with a cruel deflection steering a penalty corner past the wrong-footed Greyling to hand Swansea a win that, following a goalless draw against Whitchurch, took the hosts to the title and left the Bears on the outside looking in, third overall and one place from qualification.

U13 ‘B’ team claims Plate triumph

While the ‘A’ team was making heavy weather of qualifying for the South Wales Cup tournament, the other U13 entry competed in the Plate competition - and their timing proved impeccable as they saved their best performance of the season for the tournament.

Despite falling a goal behind in their first game against Gwent, the young Bears showed fantastic resilience to eventually take the game 3-1. A hugely exciting game against Swansea was to follow, although the 0-0 final score did not reflect the drama contained within.

That all led to a showdown against Whitchurch to conclude the tournament and, as many expected, the contest was decided by a solitary goal. Fortunately, the all-important strike went Penarth’s way and, while the entire team played exceptionally well throughout, it was the defensive effort that really caught the eye, with Llew Pierce – a late call-up from the U11s – producing an outstanding performance that belied his age and Adam Day making a last-ditch tackle in the final minute to ensure Penarth secured the title.

The final action of the 2018-19 season will now see the U13s play in the Welsh Cup finals over the weekend of 27-28 April. They will approach the national tournament with genuine aspirations of winning, knowing that they have not only returned to playing their own brand of fast flowing hockey, but will also have their talismanic South Wales Dragons representative back to bolster the squad.

Penarth Hockey Club always welcomes new, old and returning players, umpires, supporters, friends and helpers regardless of age and ability. Training will resume at Stanwell after the summer break, and is expected to remain on Wednesday evening.

Anyone interested in joining the club at senior or youth level can contact club secretary Dave Stevens ( for further information.