Druids boss Huw Griffiths spoke to us this week, and started by reflecting on the two sides' respective seasons.
"The biggest thing is that we were favourites to go down at the start of the season, so above all else I’m delighted for what the lads have achieved and very proud because they’ve surpassed all expectations, really.
"I’ve always believed that Cardiff Met would be at this point, or even disturb the top four, which is what I said right from day one because that’s how highly I rate this side, so I’m not surprised they’re at this point or competing for European football.
"Am I surprised with us? I’d probably have to say yes, but with what we’ve done, what the boys have achieved, they’ve been magnificent and we thoroughly deserve to be there.
"There’s very little between the two teams, they’ve got some exceptional players and put in a brilliant performance against Barry Town United in a game I don’t think Christian Edwards could have written any better, really, and they thoroughly deserved the win.
"We’ll work as hard as we have done every other week in preparation for Sunday, nothing changes from our perspective. People have been saying how no fifth-placed side has ever won the playoffs, but this group has broken records and made history all season so we won’t be phased by anything like that. We’ve played four different systems against Met, we’ve got that element surprise, but it’s going to come down to how the two teams control their emotions on the day."
’That’s all we’ve done all season – look after ourselves.’
Both of these sides have come full circle in terms of their season as they kicked off MD1 against each other in Rhosymedre, where Edwards’ side ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Since that game though Druids are unbeaten against the Archers this term, drawing the return Phase One fixture and sweeping Met in Phase Two.
"It’s vitally important that we don’t change things from what we’ve been doing throughout the season, especially going into such a big occasion. Met have got the benefit of experience from travelling up to north Wales for last year’s final and losing 1-0 to Bangor City, so they’ve been there, they know what it is like, and they’ll have learnt an awful lot from that experience and improved a lot too.
"We’ve got to be ready for everything they have, I’m sure Christian and his team will have gone through what happened last time and where it went wrong, but all we can do is look after Cefn Druids.
"We can’t affect them, what goes on at Cardiff Met, and that’s all we’ve done all season – look after ourselves. Against every team we’ve found ways to create overloads, put players in certain areas where we can cause opposition problems, but we’ll have to be at our absolute best to win, as they will be."
’There’s an awful lot of mutual respect between the two clubs.’
With Druids and Met fighting for fifth place for the majority of Phase Two, the Ancients ended the season winning that battle as they booked an automatic place in the Playoff Final.
With both sides, having gained promotion for the 2016/17 season, currently enjoying their second successive terms in the league, Griffiths confessed how much admiration he has for this weekend’s opposition.
"There’s an awful lot of mutual respect between the two clubs, absolutely, I respect everything that Christian and his team have done. We want to get a friendly against them in pre-season, too, because they did something similar against Carmarthen at the start of the season and then came out of the traps very quickly against us in the first league game and won 3-0.
"They’re the most professional team in the league in my opinion. They’ve not got one sports scientist, they’ve got 20. They’ve not got one analyst, they’ve got 20, they’ve got everything and everyone they need to be successful because of their university studies and the facilities at their disposal.
"Their training and recovery methods should be state of the art, they do everything properly, so we’re full of admiration of them, but we’ll only be focussing on ourselves in the build-up to Sunday."
‘There’s one more game to go, just one more, so let’s see what we can do.’
Victory on Sunday would be absolutely enormous for both clubs, and the oldest club in Wales will be hoping to add another incredible chapter to their unparalleled history.
Will Griffiths’ side be feeling any pressure, though?
"With the money that is available to the winner on Sunday, I think everyone is under pressure to be fair. Possibly the management teams more than anybody else, because the manager is the one directly in line with the chairman who can influence things going forward, not that the players would see it as just another game either.
"There’s huge pressure on it but, whatever happens, come the end of this game there will not be anyone who is prouder than me. If we’re not successful, I’ll be more disappointed than anyone else, but with what we’ve done from day one until now I’ll be exceptionally proud regardless, this group is superb, they’ve done it against all odds, people have jumped on the Cefn Druids bandwagon.
"There’s one more game to go, just one more, so let’s see what we can do.
"Our philosophy is crucial, that’s what the club has been built on, it’s the motto of the club and it’ll be there long after Huw Griffiths have left the club too. Strength, Passion and History is engrained within the club, it is engrained within the players too, so as long as stick to our beliefs we’ll be ok."
Cefn Druids v Cardiff Met
Sunday, 12:25, The Rock
Live on S4C and the Sgorio Facebook Page
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