Northern Ireland will soon welcome back its own Charity Shield, after a 14-year absence.
The Northern Ireland Football League’s (NIFL) re-branded competition which is traditionally contested between the Premiership champions and the Irish Cup winners, returns on Saturday, August 2.
Champions Cliftonville will take on Irish Cup runners-up Ballymena United, one week ahead of the new season, rather than winners, Glenavon, who already have prior commitments.
While it’s an early chance for silverware, however, the competition, in support of the Northern Ireland Hospice, is much more about raising money, than trophy-hunting.
Former Glentoran defender, Mark Glendinning, and his sons Reece and Ross, who play for Linfield, tragically lost a wife and mother to cancer earlier this year, and the NI Hospice provided immeasurable support for Mandy and her family.
He has called on all fans to come out in support for the cause, as well as what should be an enjoyable game for a neutral.
“I want the public to come out in support of the hospice, because I have seen first-hand the work they do,” Glendinning said.
“The trophy is not what this game will be about. It’s about generating as much money as we possibly can for a charity which are just brilliant.
“I had never had experience of cancer before, until this. Most families are affected by cancer, and when it hits you, it’s unbelievable.
“If you’re not affected by it, as I wasn’t before, it’s human nature not to think about it, so raising awareness of what the hospice does for so many is very important. You don’t realise it’s a charity, you think it’s government-funded. But it isn’t.
“The boys have been on at me to get a football match organised so when Adrian [Teer, NIFL chairman] contacted me about coming to the launch, I jumped at the chance.”
It is possibly also the quickest arranging of a football competition in recent memory.
Just six weeks ago, NIFL chiefs first sat down with NI Hospice fund-raising managers to develop the idea.
Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin admits it does feel “rushed”, and will have slightly to tailor his late pre-season schedule.
Breslin said: “I am sure there will be things we’ll do a little differently because we’ll have a cup game instead of a friendly, for instance, a week before the season starts.
“It does seem rushed, but it’s a good fit. NIFL want a greater link with the community and this mirrors what happens across the water.
“To be honest, I don’t even remember it from the first time around. I can’t remember back to 2000 or thereabouts, but then again, the trophy is secondary.
“This isn’t like the Irish Cup, it’s an event for all to do something meaningful. This is about bringing crowds out to support a charity.
“This is the first year it’s been done under NIFL so hopefully the crowds will come out and the NI Hospice will benefit.”