Sun is shining, superb early morning drive down to Cardiff for Finals Day. Quickly volunteered to do the driving duties to remain in control, it's a long time until RGC kick off! You know what it's like...
Fantastic parking spot, right in front of the door to Cardiff Police Station, hopefully won't be picking up my passengers from inside later on. Wasted about twenty minutes trying to put my £6 in the parking meter before son and daughter-in-law pointed out that no money taken on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Ah well...
Had the enviable situation of invites to watch the games from either the press box or the WRU hospitality box so WRU box for half an hour before kick off and then joined a great bunch of journos just in time for kick off in the Caerphilly v Amman United game. Very disappointed that most of my 'colleagues' for the day hadn't heard of my magazine. Soon put that right!
Little bit strange to be sat in the middle tier of the stadium with the crowd hidden below you on the lower tier. Makes it look as though they're playing in an empty stadium. I realise it's a great honour for the participating clubs and players to play on this famous stadium but I do sometimes wonder if it would be more atmospheric playing on the Arms Park next door. Of course, if I'd ever been in the position of playing in the final, pretty sure I'd want to play in the home of Welsh rugby.
Despite being underneath us, I'm sure that I heard Paul Hurdman, Newtown's junior coach, originally from Amman, shouting loving endearments to Shane as he trotted out on the pitch.
In the press box it took me back to the days long ago when I was typesetting at work, trying to type faster than my colleagues. Always loved the challenge.
Caught a glimpse of Big Chris 'TheHandofOmega' wearing his snazzy photographer's bib heading down in the lift to get pitch side. He looked pretty excited and was probably as nervous as the boys about to go out on the field.
I'm watching the first game sat in the Press Box on TV, patio doors to the stadium seats are open so that I can hear the crowd. Unfortunately there's a slight delay on the TV so I get to hear a roar from the crowd outside, look at the TV screen to find somebody retrieving the ball from the crowd for a lineout. I certainly don't need to look at the TV screen when Shane gets the ball, the decibel level hits the roof.
And so, we have the first winners of the day, a cracking game in which Amman United came out on top. Let's have more of the same please.
I've started to notice a few RGC badges in the crowd and my peace in the press box has been shattered as Al Skeates, Phil Williams and Big Chris have piled in. Definitely an air of excitement amongst the Gogs.
Made my first (I think) boob of the day... spotted today's Cup Final officials sat watching the game (Rhys, Alun and Dewi) and then saw them disappear back in to the box. I thought they were going down to the changing rooms so quickly dashed along the corridor, camera in hand, ready to snap an 'exclusive' threw the door open (a bit like Del Boy and Rodney dressed as Batman and Robin which I'm sure you'll remember), entered the room flashing like a madman, only to find that I'd interrupted their pre-match briefing. Oh Lord, if you can make a hole big enough, swallow me up in it please!
Hasty retreat back to my own box and now hanging my head in shame... saying that, from the snippets I caught of them chatting I reckon they were planning their night out in the City centre later.
The second game was a bit of a blur to be honest. In between moving my computer around the room trying to get a signal, feasting on the posh sarnies and chatting to the Gogs who ventured in for a coffee, I hardly took any notice as we were all waiting for the main event.
Did find it strange though at the end of the Penallta v Ystalyfera game that nobody appeared to know who had won. Pretty sure if I was in a team playing in the final of a national competition, I'd have checked up on the rules in case the scores were level.
Congratulations to Penallta, worthy winners and such a shame from a North/Mid Wales point of view that it wasn't Nant who were there lifting the trophy. Always next year.
With the cup final kick off time approaching, and with intermittent Wi-Fi, decided it was time to head to the WRU box and, after a quick hello and pleasantries with all the good WRU folk and with the camera and phone in hand, grabbed a seat in the front row of the President's box.
As expected the game turned in to a tense, close-fought affair which, up until the final whistle, could have gone either way.
It was fantastic to hear the RGC fans belting out Calon Lan and Hymns and Arias during the game, making this cup final atmosphere red hot.
Those last few minutes, with Ponty pressing, was real heart in the mouth stuff, just willing referee Rhys to blow that final whistle.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Cup will be heading North as the region takes another massive step forward. What joy amongst the Gog players and supporters. How I wished at this moment that I'd been driven down for the game so that I could have pushed the Jones boys, Alwyn and Sion, out from the front of the queue at the complimentary bar!
As in all finals, there has to be a loser, and thanks to Pontypridd for contributing immensely to what was an enthralling game.
Congratulations to RGC on a magnificent achievement, you have exceeded everybody's expectations and you will rightly return North to a region that is very proud of you all.
For me, someone who dabbles at a bit of journalism and photography as a hobby (no good at either!) it was a fantastic experience to be allowed in to the corridors of the Stadium and see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes and I thank Liz from the WRU for all her invaluable help.
Who would have thought just a few short years ago that a team from North Wales would be crowned Welsh Rugby Union National Cup Winners? The journey continues...