JUST days after announcing their broadcasting monopoly on the Irish League, BBC Sport NI have been leapfrogged by Sky Sports for the Irn Bru League Cup final.
The media giants will televise the final for the first time, marking an increasingly strong relationship, and importantly interest, between Sky Sports and Northern Irish football.
The deal was announced at yesterday’s League Cup draw, hosted by TV personality Adrian Logan and conducted by Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.
“It’s fantastic Sky have agreed to get involved,” said O’Neill, who won the trophy with Glentoran in 2003.
“It’s a great way of showcasing local players which in my job is something I definitely want to see more of. It’s no secret we don’t have a huge player pool to choose from so I will always keep local players on my radar.
“The numbers playing the professional game in the UK are low at the minute. I saw the League Cup final last year and was really impressed. Man of the match Chris Morrow put in an excellent performance and I have kept an eye on Colin Coates too, who was out with us [on international duty] in Holland.
“There are always opportunities for local players, in international football.”
Representatives from IFA Premiership and Championship clubs attended the draw for Rounds 1 and 2, many of them confident in how the League Cup represents a genuine opportunity for silverware success.
Glenavon player/manager Gary Hamilton said thanks to their increasing resources, Linfield are “guaranteed” to run away with the Premiership title.
“But cup competitions give all participants a fair crack of the whip.
“Everybody has said it before, we need as much money into football as possible and Irn Bru is coming in to support that,” Hamilton said.
“All clubs, apart from Linfield, are struggling and looking for money because all of our budgets are being cut.
“For all us clubs who look over the last few years, Linfield have done the double in every single year except one so this is a great opportunity for us to win a piece of silverware.
“All the clubs will believe that thay have a chance of doing something in the cup competitions,” added the Glenavon manager.
The Championship sides entered the draw in Round 1 with ten sides receiving byes into Round 2. Meanwhile, the remaining 20 teams will battle it out for a chance to take on Premiership opposition.