MOUSEHOLE, UK – Travel guides said almost everything is cashless in the UK these days, but as I approached the gate of Trungle Park I found myself a little apprehensive at the thought that my quest to watch an amateur football match in the town of my ancestors might be complicated or even foiled by the lack of a 10 pound note.
Yes, even on vacation, this sportswriter found a game to attend. In this case, it was Mousehole AFC in the FA Cup extra qualifying round replay. My great-grandfather emigrated from Mousehole around 110 years ago, so I looked forward to this game as a rare opportunity to express my Cornish heritage in a way other than being picky about pastries.
The FA Cup, the oldest football tournament in the world, reaches every corner of the country, even this one in the far south west, 9 miles from Land’s End. In fact, it was said to be the most-played game West in the tournament’s 151-year history, tied with home games the Seagulls played last year.
In theory, virtually any team in the country could come to Wembley Stadium and lift the trophy. In practice, Mousehole would need to win six games just to see a fully professional side and nine before the Premier League giants show up.
Trungle Parc is a modest but well-maintained lot next to a campground up a hill a short walk from the seafront. Turns out a ticket wasn’t a problem, as they have grabbed a portable card reader, tapped my card and walked in. There were concessions, a tidy clubhouse, and a full bar. I thought about treating myself to a pate and a Tribute (a Cornish brand of beer) but had already had both so decided to save my money and watch.
In the distance, we see the church of St. Pol de Leon, an Anglican parish founded in the 5th century and gutted during a raid by the Spaniards in 1595. In this case, the hostilities came just from Barnstaple Town, a club of 120 miles northeast in Devon. The teams drew a few days before at Barnstaple, setting up a win-win Tuesday night.
Mousehole plays its league matches in the ninth tier of the English football league system. I’m not qualified to judge the game, and I didn’t want to either. I was supposed to be on leave. But I was close enough to the game that when a Mousehole player barely redirected the ball off their toe at a teammate, I could hear the ball graze the boot. I could hear swearing from the burly visiting striker whose build seemed more suited to a different code of football. You can’t get that at any price in the Premier League.
The home side quickly took the lead when, after drawing a foul inside the penalty area, Tallan Mitchell scored from a penalty. Mousehole added a second goal, from Andy Watkins, for a 2-0 lead just after the half-hour mark and looked to be on the right track, but Barnstaple pulled one back late in the half and then pulled it off. tied in the second half. missile from the edge of the box, the kind of goal that compels applause regardless of its origins.
The regular 90 minutes ended tied 2-2, with 30 minutes of extra time and, if necessary, penalties imminent. The drama continued into the night, with near misses and shots at the post from both sides before Mousehole’s Reece Thomson sent a rebound into the roof of the net minutes from time for a winner of the match.
Results matter, but they don’t really matter. Mousehole lost their next game in the FA Cup preliminary qualifying round and are set to do bigger and better things in their league game.
The News Tribune won’t be covering the exploits of the Toolstation League this season, but I’m writing because no matter where you are, the sport offers a common culture that everyone can relate to. I tried to blend into Trungle Parc, but that lasted about as long as I started talking. Sure, there are stands, uniforms and lights, but fans are fans are fans. We had fun together and one of them even drove me back to my hotel after some extra time, which helped me a lot with a 45 minute hike in the dark.
I was born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and moved to Duluth seven years ago. Other people may have come from the Twin Cities or came to Duluth for college and stayed. Almost all of us are transplants of one kind or another.
I may never have the opportunity to visit Trungle Parc again, but Mousehole AFC will always be the home team.
Brandon Veale is the News Tribune’s sports editor. He can be contacted at [email protected]