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The Carmarthenshire sporting year in retrospect

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!