Rivals Barry and Merthyr face off

ADVERSARIES: The match between Barry and Merthyr in October 2011

ADVERSARIES: The match between Barry and Merthyr in October 2011

First published in Sport by

CUP fever will take over Barry on Tuesday, September 9, as Gavin Chesterfield's Town tackle long time adversaries Merthyr at Jenner Park (7.45pm kick-off).

The Martyrs have yet to make a competitive visit to the 101-year old ground this century; though cup collisions between the sides would be commonplace in the decades prior. Indeed, for some 35 years, Barry and Merthyr would occupy the same division, establishing a keen rivalry along the way.

Legend has it that in the aftermath of World War II, Merthyr brought some 1,000 supporters to Jenner Park for a reserve game, such was the fervent interest. Meanwhile in 1947, over 8,000 fans filled Jenner Park for an epic FA Cup Qualifying Round tie that saw the Martyrs win 4-3.

A traditional Christmas fixture, Barry would amass a lengthy unbeaten run against their Merthyr counterparts through much of the 1950s. Then, in 1961, a Ken Gully brace helped Barry bypass Merthyr 2-0 in another FA Cup clash, en route to a famous meeting with Queen’s Park Rangers in the First Round proper.

Sadly for Barry, the 1970s saw nothing but misery for the Town, who, in nine meetings with the Martyrs, would only score once; a Jan Bekker effort in a 2-1 defeat.

1984 saw the clubs cross paths again, in what proved to be an epic Welsh Cup tie. After goals from Mike Cosslett and Steve Williams secured a 2-2 draw at Penydarren Park, a Jenner Park replay failed to separate the sides; until Barry held their nerve to win a climactic penalty shootout, 6-5.

Paired together again the following season, Williams would net in 1-1 draws both home and away, before a second replay was declared; with a coin toss determining it would be played at Jenner Park. In a Bonfire Night spectacular, strikes from Cosslett, Phil Green and Ian Love finally swung the tie in Barry's favour, by three goals to two. It was another significant FA Cup for the Town, who they would march on to meet Reading in the First Round 12 days later.

In the latter half of the 1990s, Barry and Merthyr were pitted against one another in the Quarter Finals of the FAW's Invitation Cup. A full house of 2,500 at Jenner Park and a TV audience across Wales witnessed a tense, competitive contest, which was evenly-poised until Town goalkeeper Mark Ovendale was controversially sent off for handball. Merthyr would progress, after an extra-time winner from former Barry forward Chris Summers; though the Town would exact revenge by the same scoreline the following season, before claiming another narrow victory in 1999.

Although the dawn of 2000 saw competitive football between the foes take an indefinite hiatus, Merthyr would return to Jenner Park for intermittent friendlies; including an infamous clash in 2001 that saw both teams reduced to ten men by the 20-minute mark. A turbulent decade off the field then ensued for both clubs; with each ultimately salvaged by their respective supporters, to their enduring credit.

The latest chapter of the Barry/Merthyr story unfolded on a glorious day at Penydarren Park in October 2011. Back in the Welsh Cup for one season only, Merthyr's stay was rendered fleeting by a brilliant Barry performance; Chesterfield's men cantering to a fine 3-0 win. Now, almost three years later, the inclusion of the Town and the Martyrs as wild card entries in the revamped Welsh Premier League Cup has ensured that one of Welsh football's most enduring rivalries will continue; something that has caught the imagination of supporters in both camps.

With a healthy crowd expected for the tie on Tuesday evening, entry will be £5 at the turnstiles, with concessions for U12s available and the outcome to be settled by extra-time or penalties, if necessary.

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