The JD Welsh Cup is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world game, and it remains a hugely-popular aspect of the modern domestic game in Wales.
There have been a number of memorable finals since Wrexham first lifted the famous trophy back in 1878 with a 1-0 win against the Druids, and the north Wales club have won the competition on 23 occasions, which remains the current record.
From the 1995/96 season, clubs from outside of the Welsh football pyramid system were no longer invited to take part, despite a brief return in 2011/12. The New Saints are the current holders of the trophy following their 3-0 win over Connah's Quay Nomads last year, a victory that completed the domestic double.
On what would have been JD Welsh Cup Final weekend were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, FAW.cymru takes a closer look at the teams that have made headlines in the competition for different reasons since the turn of the century.
BARRY TOWN – WINNERS 2001, 2002 & 2003
The dominant force in the domestic game during the 1990's and early 2000's, Barry Town lifted the trophy for three consecutive years between 2001 and 2003. Surprisingly, despite their success, the last time the team won the competition prior to the 2000/01 season was in 1996/97. The victory in 2002/03 was their sixth in total.
Their first Welsh Cup success of the new century came at Wrexham as goals from Jamie Moralee and Gary Lloyd defeated The New Saints 2-0. “I love the Welsh Cup,” explained Lloyd to FAW.cymru in 2016, “People say it's not the same when you win it two or three times, but it is. It's just as nice when you in it three or four times, I just wish I could have won it more.”
Striker Moralee was again on target the following year as Barry Town recorded a 4-1 win over Bangor City, with Jonathan French and Mike Flynn adding to the scoring at Aberystwyth's Park Avenue. The third consecutive victory was claimed with a penalty shoot-out win over Cwmbran Town after Tom Ramasut and Lee Phillips had scored for the side in the 2-2 draw.
All three successes were achieved under manager Kenny Brown. “We had a nice mix of players from Wales and England,” he told FAW.cymru in 2017. “But what I remember the most is what a friendly and family-orientated club it was, and that was something that was driven from the top. Paula O’Halloran had recently taken over the running of the club when I arrived and that was something she really wanted the club to be about.”
PRESTATYN TOWN – WINNERS 2013
Although this was the one and only success in the competition for Prestatyn Town in their history, it provided one of the most memorable and exciting finals of the millennium. Neil Gibson's talented squad were up against north Wales rivals Bangor City at the Racecourse in Wrexham, and it was goalkeeper Jonathan Hill-Dunt who would prove to be the hero.
“We were all very confident,” Hill-Dunt explained to FAW.cymru as he reflected on the 3-1 extra-time win. “Although we hadn’t been on the best of runs leading up to it, all of the lads really fancied it, as we’d had some really good games against Bangor that season.” Jason Price scored for Prestatyn before Hill-Dunt saved a Dave Morley penalty, but could not prevent Chris Davies turning the ball into his own net to level the score.
“It was a great start for me personally,” the goalkeeper added, in regard to his penalty save. “I think it also made the rest of the lads feel that it was going to be our day. For the rest of the game, I felt unbeatable.” In fact, a series of saves kept his side in the game, before goals from Andy Parkinson and a second from Price completed the scoring in extra-time.
“Sometimes you just have those days where everything goes your way,” said Hill-Dunt. “Luckily for me, I had one of those days. The team spirit we had was unbelievable. We all had the attitude of not wanting to let your mates down, because we were just a group of good mates, and most of us had come through the leagues together. Celebrating with that group was the most memorable part of the day.”
THE NEW SAINTS – WINNERS 2005, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2019
For all the success that Barry Town enjoyed in the previous era, that status has been claimed by The New Saints in recent times. The most-decorated club in the Welsh domestic game, the side from Oswestry have lifted the Welsh Cup six times since the turn of the century.
Under their previous guise of Total Network Solutions, the club defeated Carmarthen Town 1-0 at Stebonheath in Llanelli through a John Lawless goal to win the trophy in 2004/05, and with it complete the domestic double for Ken McKenna's side. Further success followed in 2011/12 as goals from Greg Draper and Alex Darlington proved too much for Cefn Druids in a 2-0 win.
The first of three consecutive Welsh Cup victories arrived in 2013/14 with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aberystwyth Town after the side had found themselves two goals behind at half-time. The side then defeated Newtown and Airbus UK Broughton in 2014/15 and 2015/16 respectively, both finals finishing 2-0 to Craig Harrison's team.
Their most-recent success in the competition came courtesy of goals from Draper and a brace from Ryan Brobbel claimed a comfortable 3-0 win over Connah's Quay Nomads last year. It was the first time that manager Scott Ruscoe had lifted the trophy as a manager having enjoyed previous success with the club as a player.
BANGOR CITY – WINNERS 2000, 2008, 2009 & 2010
Like Barry Town and The New Saints, Bangor City are also achieved the impressive feat of claiming three consecutive successes in the competition since the turn of the century. The side were also the first club to lift the trophy this millennium, as a goal from Paul Roberts was enough to beat Cwmbran Town at the Racecourse in 1999/00.
Under the management of Nev Powell, the side then went on an incredible run of reaching four consecutive Welsh Cup finals, winning the first three. In 2007/08, an extra-time victory over Llanelli will be remembered as one of the most dramatic finals of the modern era, with Christian Seargeant equalising with the final kick of normal time at Latham Park before his side eventually claimed a 4-2 win.
The following year, goals from striker Les Davies and Seargeant ensured that the side would retain the trophy as they defeated Aberystwyth Town 2-0 at Parc-y-Scarlets. Davies was one of the defining figures of this era of success for the club, and he remains one of the all-time great strikers in history of the domestic game.
The side then retained the cup for another year in 2009/10 with a 3-2 win over Port Talbot Town at Parc-y-Scarlets, with Dave Morley scoring the crucial goal in injury-time, adding to opening half goals from Lee Hunt and Jamie Reed. However, the side would suffer defeat against Llanelli at the same stadium the following year to prevent them from making it four wins in a row.
BALA TOWN – WINNERS 2017
The New Saints were on the verge of lifting the trophy for the fourth season in succession when they came up against Colin Caton's Bala Town side at Nantporth in May 2017. Greg Draper put the Saints ahead on 55 minutes and it seemed the league champions and cup holders were well on-course to complete the domestic treble.
However, goals from Jordan Evans and Kieran Smith in the final 15 minutes of the match reversed the scoreline in favour of Bala Town, and they held on to lift the trophy for the first time in the club's history with the shock victory. It was also the first time that the club had reached the final of the competition.
“It means everything winning it for the first time,” said Caton to BBC Sport after the match. “It's difficult to challenge TNS because they're so good but in a one off occasion it's gone our way. We're going to have a few weeks off, the lads deserve it.”
It was a game that showed why the competition remains so popular in the domestic football calendar, and famous cup shocks like that enjoyed by Prestatyn Town in 2013 and Bala Town in 2017 add to the football romance of the whole occasion. Let's hope for more memorable moments when the action returns.