On Thursday 11th May, a team from Cornwall, representing Plymouth Argyle, will head to Doncaster Rover’s Eco-Power Stadium to face Derby County in the final of the Community & Education Football Alliance (CEFA) Cup, writes Colin Bradbury.
CEFA is a football competition for EFL Club Community Organisations, featuring teams representing Premier League and EFL Clubs across the country. The Plymouth Argyle ‘A’ side is made up of boys participating in the club’s Football Development and Education Programme run by Argyle staff at Carn Brea, near Camborne.
Plymouth Argyle ‘A’ have already won their South West 1 division – for the second consecutive season – and have now reached the final of the cup competition for the first time in their six years of participating.
Three Plymouth sides are run out of Carn Brea. After a clean sweep of their leagues last season, this year the A and C teams won their respective divisions with only the B side missing out.
But this season is special, as Jamie Day, Cornwall Head of Football and Tutor in the Post-16 Football Education programme at Carn Brea explains:
“For the first time the A team has managed to get to the final of the National Cup – the furthest we’ve got in the previous six years was the quarter finals.”
The Cup is open to all CEFA teams nationally. Until the final itself, the competition is split into southern and northern groups, with the winners of each playing each other for the honour of lifting the trophy.
The Plymouth Argyle A team’s journey to victory in the southern group has been a tough one, with victories over Chelsea, Watford, Norwich City and Ipswich Town. As Jamie says:
“It’s a great achievement to be southern winners, but now to do it nationally would be a massive thing.”
The competition gives some of Cornwall’s best young players the opportunity to play against teams from across the country, under the Plymouth Argyle umbrella.
Alongside their commitment to the Plymouth team, the lads all play for local sides in Cornwall. The 16-man Plymouth ‘A’ squad for the cup final consists of five players each from Mousehole and Truro City Reserves, two from Sticker, and one each from Falmouth Town, Helston, Redruth and Hayle. Which means they play in a range of local and regional leagues – from the Western League through to the South West Peninsula League and the St Piran League.
Drew Symons leads the Mousehole Development team, which he joined in June 2022 after 15 years at Falmouth United. He is also part of the Plymouth Argyle Centre of Excellence team at Penryn, where he works alongside Mousehole first team manager, Jake Ash. His son Jack also plays for the Plymouth Argyle A team.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement to get to the final for the first time”, he says. They’re looking forward to it – they can’t wait.”
He is quick to point out that the local leagues have been highly supportive of the Plymouth Argyle A team’s efforts, particularly when it came to potential fixture clashes. With a heavy A team representation from Mousehole Development and Truro Reserves, who were competing for the St Piran League title, both Drew and Jamie commend that league’s organisers for their helpful approach to avoiding fixture issues. Jamie says:
“A couple of St Piran league games clashed with the Ipswich and Norwich games and the league agreed to reschedule. That was really good of them – it show’s they’re backing new players.”
It’s not hard to see the valuable role played by all three of the Plymouth Argyle CEFA teams in helping to develop young talent for the Cornish game. Drew points out that:
“The average squad age in a recent Mousehole Development team game was 18.6, and we already have three under-16s stepping up to that team.”
The team will head off to the final on Thursday in style as they have been given the use of the Plymouth Argyle First Team coach.
“It certainly beats the minibus”, laughs Jamie.
He’s confident that they will put on a good show:
“This is a properly national competition involving some big teams. But we’ve got a strong squad with some of the lads playing Western League football. With the level of player we’ve got, we knew back in September that we could go on what I’ve called ‘a little journey’.”
He’ll be hoping that there will be a nice piece of silverware to accompany them on their return journey to Cornwall on Thursday evening.
Community & Education Football Alliance Cup.
Who: Derby County A v Plymouth Argyle A
When: Thursday 11th May (2.30pm kick-off)
Where: Doncaster Rovers FC, Eco-Power Stadium
Plymouth Argyle A likely squad:
Morgan Jones (Helston Reserves)
Eagan Fabby (Truro City Reserves)
Jamie Edlin (Truro City Reserves)
Ollie Paterson (Truro Reserves)
Josh Evans (Truro City Reserves)
James Swan (Falmouth Town 1st Team)
Greg Eastman (Mousehole Development)
Jack Symons (Mousehole 1st Team)
Ben Shaw (Truro City Reserves)
Ovo Ememerurai (Sticker 1st Team)
Jake Nancarrow (Sticker 1st Team)
Ned Symons (Mousehole Development)
Liam Pascoe (Redruth Utd 1st Team)
James Gold (Hayle 1st Team)
Connor Hurrell (Mousehole Development)
Aaron Ibbetson (Mousehole Development)