2020 Royal Ashbourne Shrovetide Football

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 March 2020

Cheers as Andrew shows Tuesday's hand-painted ball to the excited crowd

Cheers as Andrew shows Tuesday's hand-painted ball to the excited crowd

andrew eyley

Up’ards 1 – Down’ards 1

Keeping everyone in suspense almost to the last minute, this year’s Royal Ashbourne Shrovetide Football game was a justly-deserved tie.

Despite the recent weather Henmore Brook was still in play, but a deceptively sunny start gave way at times to sleet and even snow. Shrovetide 2020 developed into a cold, muddy and hard-fought contest that travelled through streets and stream, over sports pitches and fields, and at times into trees.

Andrew Lemon turned up one of the beautifully painted balls – designed and decorated by Simon Hellaby and Tim Baker – on the Tuesday at 2pm from Shawcroft. On Ash Wednesday, it was the turn of Patrick ‘Paddy’ Kerr. Both are stalwarts of the game who have scored goals themselves in previous years. Andrew, who declared being chosen to turn up the ball, ‘By far the biggest honour that any Ashbourne man can have’, is a countryman, keen runner and an Up’ard, whose sons have also goaled the ball at Shrovetide. Also an Ashbourne man, born and bred, Paddy had a 22-year Army career with the 9th and 12th Royal Lancers and is Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football Committee’s treasurer and a Down’ard.

Play on the Tuesday was going the Up’ards way as darkness fell and cold, sleety showers saw many followers calling it a day. An exercise in true Derbyshire grit for those Up’ards and Down’ards who kept up the fight, it wasn’t until 8.15pm that a goal was scored at Sturston Mill by Up’ard Tom Leighton and – as it was past the 5.30pm cut-off point for a re-start – play ended for the day. The hundreds who had waited to see the goal left to prepare for the next day’s play.

It was another sunny start on the second day. The ball was held in the massive hug at Shaw Croft for some time before it moved into the streets. After an early surge by the Up’ards was successfully held back, the hug returned to Shaw Croft with the ball moving into the town centre and back to Shaw Croft during the afternoon with some exciting periods of play. As the 5.30pm deadline approached again, the likelihood of a Down’ards win faded. Play moved into the muddy fields as darkness fell and after some confusion about the whereabouts of the ball, the Down’ards made it south-west of the town centre to their goal at the old Clifton Mill.

The ball was goaled by Craig Frith just 11 minutes before play was due to end at 10pm.

Shrovetide 2020 was another memorable occasion, drawing friends and family back to Ashbourne to enjoy the atmosphere and excitement of what is surely one of the country’s greatest traditional events.

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