Cross-Border cup between league winners not yet finalised
Two-leg tie scheduled for November 8th and 12th despite lack of confirmation from North
FAI competitions director Fran Gavin broke the news that the new competition would take place. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
The Irish League has made clear in a statement that it has yet to agree to any plan to have its title holders play a two-legged “Champions Cup” against the League of Ireland winners in November. The new competition, which is to consist simply of a two-legged, home-and-away tie between the top sides on either side of the Border, was announced at the launch of the new Airtricity League season in Lansdowne Road on Tuesday morning.
FAI competitions director Fran Gavin broke the news that the new competition would take place but suggested that the detail of it would be announced at a later date.
Shortly afterwards the Northern Irish Football League issued a statement in which it said that it “noted” the announcement in Dublin and had been “aware that initial discussions had taken place between the IFA and the FAI but did not expect any formal announcements at this stage.
“We look forward to consultation and receiving further detail regarding this opportunity, which we will consider with our member clubs.”
A sponsor has been lined up for the games, which have been scheduled for November 8th and 12th, according to Gavin, who also said “significant” prize money would be up for grabs. A firm announcement is to be made in early March, by which stage league officials north of the Border will presumably have been fully briefed.
Gavin also said the FAI had been talking to the Scots to ensure the problems that arose with, and because of, the scheduling of the Irn-Bru Cup quarter-final between Bohemians and East Fife are not repeated net season.
“They want us in the competition,” he said, despite some grumblings last year from assorted club officials who really didn’t sound so sure. “We want to be there and I think that competition is going to grow over the next while.
“It’s important for those two teams just below the European places that there is something to play for. And there is prize money, which is growing over the last few years, which is welcome.”
The prize money for the league here, he confirmed, would not be growing for the coming season, with the teams once again playing for a top prize of €110,000. The champions, of course, then go forward to the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, which offers far more substantial rewards.
Gavin expects Waterford to get a licence to play in this year’s Europa League despite historical issues over debts within football that had cast some doubt over their admission to their competition this summer.
“Waterford will go through the process that Derry went through with Uefa, where they have to make a case for licensing because they are a new entity there, but at the moment we don’t see any significant issues around Waterford that would prohibit them from getting a licence,” he said.
Derry City are still hoping to sign Institute striker Michael McCrudden in time for Friday night’s league campaign opener against UCD at the Brandywell. The 26-year-old, who is the Irish League joint top scorer with 19 goals this season, has signed a pre-contract agreement with City and is due to join in the summer, but manager Declan Devine says he has not given up on getting the player in before the weekend.
“Would we like to get a deal done before Friday? Absolutely, we would,” he said at the Aviva. “We’ve made another offer. We’ve gone back to the club to see if they are interested in doing anything before the weekend.
“At this moment in time, nothing’s happening, and Friday might come a bit too quick, but all we are trying to do is see where we can go with it. If not, we’ll wait until the summer; I think we’ll still have goals in us. We have signed Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe on loan from Colchester, David Parkhouse has come in from Sheffield United at 19 years of age and I think he will have a big impact on the league this year. I think he’s very exciting, a return to the old style of centre forward . . . 6ft 2in, works extremely hard, good in the air, good at holding the ball up. And then there’s Eoghan Stokes, who is already well known around the league.
City’s opponents on Friday, UCD, suffered a significant blow ahead of the season’s start when Evan Osam suffered an Achilles injury in training on Monday night. The 21-year-old defender is likely to be out for months and could miss the entire campaign.