Ballinamallard United and Coleraine have been drafted into this season’s Setanta Sports Cup after Cliftonville and Linfield pulled out of the tournament on Monday.
The Blues and Reds released statements on Monday confirming they had turned down invitations to participate in the all-Ireland competition.
Ballinamallard – who finished fifth in the Danske Bank Premiership last season – and Coleraine (6th), will now join the draw for the quarter-finals – which will be held at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Wednesday,
They will join Crusaders and Glentoran from the Irish League, and St.Patricks Athletic, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers, and Shamrock Rovers from the Aitricity League.
In a statement, Linfield said: “After a great deal of consideration, the Board of Directors of Linfield Football Club has decided, reluctantly, not to accept the recent invitation to participate in the proposed 2014 Setanta Sports Cup competition.
“The scheduling of the Setanta Sports Cup games in the springtime when teams from Northern Ireland are approaching the closing stages of their domestic league and Irish cup competitions tends to be less favourable to clubs in the Danske Bank Premiership and this club will always prioritise the League title as the prime target and focus in every season.
“With a much reduced prize fund available to clubs competing in the Setanta Sports Cup and also taking into account the considerable difficulties faced by our supporters travelling to attend these games, the Linfield Board of Directors has, on this occasion, taken the decision not to enter the 2014 Setanta Sports Cup competition.
“Nevertheless, as proud winners of the inaugural Setanta Sports Cup in 2005, Linfield FC would like to extend every best wish to the competing teams and the organisers of the 2014 tournament and this club will of course, give serious consideration to all future invitations to compete in the competition in the years ahead.”
Cliftonville issued a statement on Monday. It read: “Cliftonville Football Club were pleased to receive an invitation to compete in the 2014 Setanta Sports Cup but, amid an already heavy footballing schedule which began with the Champions League in July, we have decided not to take up the invitation this season.
“We have enjoyed being part or the tournament in previous years and do not rule out our possible participation in the future. We wish the organisers of this season’s tournament every success.”
Setanta Sports have renewed their sponsorship of the Setanta Sports Cup for a further three years to 2016. They have been sponsors of the all-island competition since its inception in 2005.
The announcement was made on Monday by The Setanta Sports Cup Tournament Committee which is composed of representatives from the FAI and the IFA and its chairman, Milo Corcoran, said they were delighted that Setanta Sports had agreed to renew their sponsorship of the cross-bordercompetition as well as continuing to be the competition’s broadcast partner.
“I am very happy that Setanta have shown their faith in this unique competition by agreeing to remain as our sponsors for a further three years. The competition has grown in stature sinceit began in 2005 and clubs north and south are looking forward to the ninth version starting in February,” said Mr Corcoran.