After arriving in a blaze of fanfare as a potential precursor to an All-Ireland League in 2005, yesterday’s announcement of the 2014 Setanta Sports Cup was delivered amid its latest setback.
Even by the time the organisers of the cross-border tournament confirmed details of the competition, half of the Northern representatives – Linfield and Cliftonville – had declined invitations to participate.
Both clubs cited “scheduling difficulties” as contributory to their decision – natural given the competition begins in February just as their domestic campaign intensifies – but the 80% cut in prize money over the eight-year lifespan of the event was also a factor.
Following that snub, the next eligible clubs, Ballinamallard United and Coleraine, who respectively finished fifth and sixth in the Irish League, accepted late invitations.
They will join fellow Irish League clubs Glentoran and Crusaders in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.
Representing the League of Ireland will be champions St Patrick’s Athletic, runners-up Dundalk, League Cup winners Shamrock Rovers and FAI Cup winners Sligo Rovers.
All six knockout ties will be staged on a two-leg basis until the one-off final on May 10. Of the overall €73,000 prize pot, next year’s victors receive a mere €30,000 for their efforts plus a €3,000 participation fee.
One positive from yesterday, was Setanta’s commitment to extend its sponsorship for a further three years.
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