What. A. Game. The month is May and we’ve already crept well into 2014 for what was a 2013 competition but boy, it was worth the wait. This was the final we’ve been waiting for – passion, drive and determination evident in every kick, every run and every battle cry. If the overall plan was to get each player fighting vigorously for their respective captain then it was fulfilled ten times over. This was a stage show as much as a competitive final, with the main components of the evening’s proceedings coming together perfectly.
The main actors within this gripping finale played their parts brilliantly. Enter Gareth O’Neill; the self-styled ferocious firebrand that demands 110% and commands respect who fell famously at the semi final stage last year. His trademark of ‘extreme vocal’ has been one of the main reasons why he is a favourite for this competition.
On the other side Greg Davies, the canny, but coy operator who has been fairly quiet in his début season in the TPC – but let it be known he too can also dish out a bowl of harsh discipline to his troops when required and his pragmatic picking ability has arguably won him his seat at this final.
The stage – or the pitch – was itself damp and slightly greasy after a day’s rain but at kick off the precipitation was easing off. Lastly the players – who all clearly were fired up for such a big game as the Top 14 attendees all took part; a rare occurrence at TTFE.
So the teams were:
Team Gareth – Gaji, Rolan, Dan, Gareth, Karl P, Joe, Tom
Team Greg, Greg, Pugh, Callum, Billy, Mike, Chris, Pishty
Team Gareth had the fire power of Karl Powell, who has dazzled the competition with his own brand of stylish football, as well as Dan, who has struggled in the TPC but certainly has the ability to be a game changer. This mutual respect as the TTFE’s trusted goal machines usually keeps them apart during the team picking as this was to be only the second time in the TPC they have played along side each other – interestingly the last time was also under Team Gareth in the semi final (and that ended with a resounding victory which gifted Gareth his place in the final). Meanwhile on Team Greg, you cannot overlook the raw power of Pishty, who has been setting TTFE alight with his fancy footwork and deadly accuracy when shooting. Together with Mike, who always thrives in the wet conditions and can partner Pishty well in attack, not forgetting influential Chris and pacey Pugh, this ensured that goals were on the menu.
It was Dan who wetted his hungry appetite first as he grabbed an early hat-trick to make the game 3-1 to Team Gareth. During this goal blitz Dan also executed a fine flick to pull away from the defender and place the ball in to the net on Billy’s far side. The game plan was to smother Team Greg forcing them to error and this was effective in keeping Team Greg quiet in attack. Team Gareth started to pull away to six goals, but sloppy errors meant Team Greg crept back into it making it 6-4 at half time. Nerves jangled on both sides and as Team Gareth looked to be in a commanding position to win the game, it was still a contest.
It was in the second half where this game really started to move into third, fourth and fifth gear. The rain returned making the pitch even greasier and instantly injecting additional speed into what was already a fast and frantic game. This was also fuel for the fire that burns within Michael Pinto-Castro, who was certainly rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect.
At first, despite the optimism that came with a change in the weather Team Gareth just seemed to consolidate their position by two further goals. It was then that the game flipped as Team Greg began to take the game to their opponents and force them to make the same errors which allowed them breathing space in the first half. Now Pishty started to turn the pressure on – taking what space he could to allow him to wind up for the all important at goal. Team Greg tied the game at 8-8 and now the winds of change were in favour of the Merthyr Magician. Could they go to take the lead for the first time? Sadly for them it was not to be. Team Gareth got back on track as they stole the run of play, perhaps taking advantage of a foul call which boiled over – showing frustration from both sides.
The vocal heard across the pitch was like nothing we’ve seen in a long time at TTFE. Shouts of encouragement were echoed by sighs of disappointment, over a lost ball or a wrong decision when bearing down on goal. Gareth was characteristically barking orders from midfield, while Callum’s trademark ‘keep him on his’ call was working in overdrive, as he commanded his defence with Billy providing authoritative guidance in goal. This was also a night for the goalkeepers who did the right things at the right times; Billy making some outstanding stretched arm saves and Joe foiling a few one-on-one situations with his feet.
The game then reverted to true cat-and-mouse style with Team Gareth pulling away then being pegged back soon after. Now the mistakes mattered as either side needed a hero or simply an opponent who would throw the game away.
At 10-10 and the clock running down, Team Gareth had just about enough in the tank to take the lead for the last time and finally start to pull away. It was well past 10.30pm by now and we were expecting the lights to go out at any moment. Any grace given by the Sport Wales in leaving the lights on would have been vital minutes for Team Greg to mount a final charge but the swift hand of the receptionist cruelly ended Greg’s dream of lifting the TPC mug and shirt. Gareth had done enough to win with a comfortable three goal cushion and take the TPC title.
What were your thoughts on this year’s final? Was the game on the team picking or was it the determination of Team Gareth that won them the game? Who was the best player this tournament? Maybe I’ll set up a poll to see who you think and the winner will get a free drink from the kitty?
See what our captains thought below – and as always we would love to hear your thoughts!