The Story of Welsh Football: 1880-1914
Wales travelled to Blackburn to play England:
"Hawtrey, the English goalkeeper, threw the ball out but was charged over at the same time and Vaughan running up placed the leather safely through the goal for Wales. The Englishmen strove hard to get on terms with their opponents. Shot after shot was aimed at the Welsh goal but each attempt was rendered futile. When time was called Wales were declared winners by one goal to love."
It was a wake-up call to the English. Wales could now take pride in its footballing heroes.
At club level, this period saw great change. The Druids, an amateur side, dominated the Welsh Cup in the early years of the competition. In 1885 football went professional in England. English money started to influence the game in Wales. Despite their strong traditions and the reserves of football talent, the Druids lost their power. New professional teams from the bigger towns started to dominate.
March 3rd 1888 Wales Goal Feast At Irish Expense
"The seventh encounter between the representatives of the Shamrock and the Leek took place on Saturday at the Racecourse in beautiful weather and in the presence of nearly two thousand spectators, the Irish being defeated to the extent of eleven goals and three disallowed to nil."
There was some attempt to play down this victory over Ireland:
"Wales vs Ireland
This match was played at Wrexham on Saturday. Some young gentlemen from Belfast or thereabouts evidently took advantage of the fact that there is no law to prevent them from calling themselves 'Ireland'. They played under Association Rules and as might have been expected Wales won, by a no means one sided game, eleven goals to nothing."
Football was catching on across Wales. In 1890, 13 clubs came together in the South Wales League, though only seven stayed the season. Calls soon grew for internationals to be played in the south.
February 24th 1894 Trip South Brings Glory for Wales
Ireland scored first in the match at St. Helen's, Swansea but Wales equalised then:
"Nearing the 12 yards line, Evans crossed the ball over to James who beating Steward, popped a beauty into the net, putting Wales a goal ahead. Hardly had the restart been made from the centre before the Welsh forwards were hovering in front of the Irish goal. Rea got up close and scored a magnificent goal. Less than five minutes later, W.Lewis in the centre sent in a shot, which the Irish keeper had no chance of stopping. From now until the finish the Welsh had the best of the play. Occasionally the Irish front line would breakaway but their attack lacked method and the home back contingent had no difficulty in disposing of their onslaught. Time was called with the score reading: Wales, four goals; Ireland, one goal."
It was a match to convert even the most sceptical including the sports writers of The Western Mail. They warned rugby that with football this entertaining, it had a rival.
Football had a growing fan base. 3,000 people turned out in 1894 to watch Cardiff lose 0-1 to Builth in the first South Wales & Monmouthshire FA Cup. Despite the struggle to stop talent defecting across the border to wealthier English clubs, Welsh football prospered and the number of clubs grew rapidly. In 1903 Aberaman were the first South Welsh club to reach the finals of the Welsh Cup. In 1912 Cardiff won the Cup, the first South Walian club to do so. Football had become Wales's national game.
1907 Wales - The Best of British
Wales faced a constant battle to get its players released for international duty. Yet in 1907 with players like Billy Meredith and Leigh Richmond Roose, an undefeated Wales won the British Home International Championship for the first time.