Ballinamallard United boss Whitey Anderson admits the Ferney Park club didn’t have to think twice about competing in next year’s Setanta Cup.
The Mallards were handed a late entry into the all-Ireland competition on Monday after Linfield and Cliftonville confirmed their withdrawals from the tournament.
Coleraine will also join the Fermangh club in Wednesday’s quarter-final draw at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Fellow Irish League representatives Crusders and Glentoran are included in the draw, along with League of Ireland quartet Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk and Sligo Rovers.
It is the latest chapter in Ballinamallard’s proud history, and arrives in what is only their second ever season in the top-flight of the Irish League.
“It is another special moment for this club, and shows you how far we have come,” Anderson said.
“We finished fifth in the Premiership last season so we were next in line, so to speak.
“We now have this opportunity to play against the best teams in the League of Ireland and raise the profile of Ballinamallard United.”
Linfield and Cliftonville have confirmed they would not be competing in the 2014 Setanta Cup.
Blues vice-chairman Billy Kennedy admitted the scheduling of next year’s competition would be “problematic” for the Windsor Park club – who won the inaugural running of tournament back in 2005.
He also voiced concerns over reduced prizemoney.
“There would be the probability of fixture congestion during February/March, when the quarter-finals of the Setanta are to be held,” Kennedy said.
“There could be Danske Bank Premiership and Irish Cup games, and then you would have Setanta fixtures to accommodate too.
“We have always placed our priority on winning the league championship, and this will again be the ultimate goal for the club.
“Linfield will always give careful consideration to future participation in a North/South knockout tournament.
“However, the scheduling, along with reduced financial incentives, mean we have to withdraw this time.”
In statement, Cliftonville also said: “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.”
Meanwhile, Crusaders – who won the Setanta in 2012 with a penalty kick victory over Derry City – have pledged their support to the tournament.
Chairman Stephen Bell said the Seaview club’s participation next year was “never in doubt”.
“We’ve had a very positive experience in the Setanta Cup,” Bell said.
“We understand there are issues over scheduling and so on, but we want to help ensure the competition survives.”
A spokesperson for Glentoran also confirmed the club had “agreed unanimously” to enter the competition for the foreseeable future.
The 2014 Setanta Cup’s €73,000 prize fund will see the winners pocket €33,000, runners-up €13,000 and all other clubs €4,500.
Shamrock Rovers defeated Drogheda 7-1 in last year’s final in Dublin.