There were two familiar names dominating the domestic landscape during 2019 as The New Saints claimed a league and cup double, while Cardiff Met Women completed an undefeated season by achieving the domestic treble.
Built on Welsh Spirit
Check out this interactive online experience of Football in Wales during 2019:
The year also marked the start of an exciting new era as the rebranded JD Cymru Premier was joined by the JD Cymru North and JD Cymru South, and Connah's Quay Nomads made national headlines as they knocked Kilmarnock out of the UEFA Europa League.
In fact, Andy Morrison's side made quite an impression in Scotland during 2019, as they also reached the final of the IRN-BRU Scottish Cup.
The New Saints claimed their 13th league title despite the challenge of Connah's Quay Nomads, retaining their crown for the eighth season in succession.
Scott Ruscoe's side eventually ended the campaign 12 points ahead of their closest challengers, an achievement helped by the side amassing an incredible goal difference of +83 in the process.
With 99 goals scored in their 32 league games, it was no surprise to see the iconic trophy remain at Park Hall. “We’ve got a great group of players, and they have stepped up to the mark,” said Ruscoe, who also claimed the Manager of the Year award. “Sometimes people doubt you, but I never once doubted that we would be in this position.”
Meanwhile, the position also remained unchanged in the women's game, as Cardiff Met enjoyed an unbeaten season in the Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League under Dr Kerry Harris.
The side scored 58 goals in 16 games to finish eight points ahead of Swansea City Ladies and claim their fifth title in six seasons, and sixth domestic league title in total. The title was claimed with a 0-0 draw against the Swans in March.
There was a dramatic start for The New Saints in the UEFA Champions League as two very late goals from the visitors earned Feronikeli of Kosovo a 2-2 draw at Park Hall. However, Dean Ebbe scored the crucial goal on his birthday in the return match in Pristina for the Welsh champions to progress.
Danish giants Copenhagen provided the opposition in the next round, and while respective 2-0 and 1-0 defeats brought the campaign to an end for Scott Ruscoe's side, they were certainly not disgraced against quality opposition.
However, the summer of 2019 will be remembered for Connah's Quay Nomads claiming arguably the biggest European scalp in the history of the domestic league.
Taking on Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock in the UEFA Europa League, the side suffered a 2-1 defeat in the opening match at Rhyl, but incredibly reversed the tie by winning 2-0 in Scotland in the return match. Ryan Wignall and Callum Morris were the goalscoring heroes on the night for Andy Morrison's side. However, a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Partizan Belgrade followed in the next round.
It was also the summer that European football returned to south Wales for the first time since 2012, as both Barry Town United and Cardiff Met qualified for the UEFA Europa League.
A 0-0 home draw for Barry Town United against Cliftonville was followed by a disappointing 4-0 defeat in Ireland, while Cardiff Met were eliminated on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw against Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg.
The New Saints also entered the competition at the 3rd qualifying round stage following their Champions League exit, but suffered a 9-0 aggregate defeat against Ludogorets of Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, Cardiff Met made history in the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2019 by recording the best ever performance by a Welsh club in the competition.
The side claimed two victories from their three games in Slovenia, but narrowly missed out on becoming the first Welsh club to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition. However, their two wins over WFC Pomurje and FC Nike, together with their +4 goal difference in the group, set a new standard for Welsh clubs in the competition.
WELSH CUP SUCCESS
Domestic rivals The New Saints and Connah's Quay Nomads competed in the 132nd JD Welsh Cup Final back in May, and it was Scott Ruscoe's Saints that completed the double with a 3-0 victory.
Goals from Greg Draper and a brace from Ryan Brobbel ensured the trophy would return to Park Hall for the seventh time. An attendance of 1,256 watched the action at The Rock as Cefn Druids hosted the match, and while the final scoreline appeared convincing, the Nomads had enough chances to bring themselves back into the match, but failed to make the most of the opportunities presented to them on the day.
In the final of the FAW Women's Cup, two goals from Madison Schupbach earned Cardiff Met more silverware against Abergavenny at Dragon Park in Newport to complete the treble for the Archers, and with it ensure that they would complete the domestic season without experiencing a single defeat in all competitions.
Although Abergavenny created chances to bring themselves back into the match early in the 2nd half, Cardiff Met could have extended their lead when Alice Griffiths' effort hit the post in the final moments.
Following the inaugural match in 2018, Mark Jones' Cymru C team again took to the field in March for an International Challenge Match against England C at Salford City.
England took the lead through an own-goal from Nathan Peate, but Cymru levelled the score through Barry Town United striker Kayne McLaggon. Kurt Willoughby was on target for England, but Adam Roscrow proved to be an inspired substitution for Cymru as he scored the equalising goal on 63 minutes.
Playing for Cardiff Met at the time, Roscrow would earn himself a summer move to AFC Wimbledon a few months later.
SO CLOSE IN SCOTLAND
Michael Bakare opened the scoring for Connah's Quay Nomads against Ross County in the final of the IRN-BRU Scottish Cup back in March, but three late goals denied Andy Morrison's side from claiming the trophy. However, with victories over Falkirk, Coleraine, Queen's Park and Edinburgh City to reach the final, the side made a huge impression, and raised the profile of the Nomads and the domestic game in the process.
“Ross County are a good side,” said Morrison following the defeat. “But we gave them a real fight, and we can go home with our heads held high. We missed three unbelievable chances in the first half, and we needed to take two of them, and it could have been different. When we were ahead, we dared to dream, but it was not to be. All three of their goals came from us switching off, which you can’t afford at this level.”
Another excellent season for Greg Draper not only helped The New Saints claim the domestic double, but also ensured that the New Zealand international would retain the Golden Boot.
Draper scored an impressive 27 goals from 29 games for the champions during the course of another successful campaign.
Madison Schupbach collected the award for her 18 goals for treble-winners Cardiff Met in the Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League, and also claimed the Player of the Season award for her performances for the Archers.
Cambrian & Clydach upset the odds to reach the final of the Nathaniel MG Cup, but they were defeated by eventual winners Cardiff Met 2-0 at Jenner Park to earn Dr Christian Edwards' side the first silverware of 2019.
The achievement was mirrored in the Orchard Welsh Premier Women's League Cup as Cardiff Met claimed the trophy with a 3-1 victory over Swansea City back in April. A 4-0 win for Cefn Albion over Pontardawe at Aberystwyth secured the FAW Trophy, while Penrhyn Bay won the FAW U16 Girls Cup with a 3-2 win over Villa Dino Christchurch.
In the FAW Youth Cup, Swansea City defeated The New Saints 2-1 to retain the trophy for an incredible tenth season in succession. Josh Thomas and Simone Paulet scored the crucial goals for the Swans in the final at Llanelli.
“It's a competition we take seriously as a club so it's great to win it for a tenth consecutive time,” explained winning captain Cameron Evans after the match. “TNS obviously had a game plan to hit us on the counter and were strong opposition, they were a tough test tonight.”
Check out BuiltOn.Cymru for a full End of Year Review for 2019 from the Football Association of Wales.