Glentoran chief hopes Setanta Sports Cup doesn’t face the axe

Crusaders won the Setanta Sports Cup in 2012
Crusaders won the Setanta Sports Cup in 2012

Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson fears the Setanta Sports Cup could “disappear off the radar” if this year’s competition is scrapped.

The future of the all-Ireland tournament has again been thrown in doubt after organisers were forced to postpone Thursday’s quarter-final draw.

While no official reason has been given for the late cancellation, it is believed concerns over fixture scheduling prompted the move.

This year’s Setanta features Crusaders, Portadown, Glenavon and Glentoran from the Danske Bank Premiership, and Dundalk, St Patrick’s Athletic, Cork City and Shamrock Rovers from the League of Ireland.

Four ‘north v south’ quarter-finals are due to be played over one leg between June 20-24.

Linfield have already withdrawn from this year’s competition, and now Glenavon and Crusaders have cast doubt over their participation.

The Lurgan Blues have voiced opposition to a potential midweek trip to Cork City in the quarter-finals – with Cork’s game scheduled to be played on Monday night, June 22. Crusaders are also opposed to midweek fixtures.

“We are happy to take part in what would be our first Setanta Cup, but the whole competition seems to be totally geared to wards the League of Ireland clubs,” Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer said.

“We have been in contact with the IFA by email and explained that a midweek game at Cork would not suit us, and in the case of us getting that draw we would play the game on the Saturday. If they cannot meet this request then we may have to withdraw.”

Glens chairman Henderson believes the Setanta Cup could disappear off the football radar if it is axed this summer.

“The fear is that the Setanta could be lost forever if it is postponed this year,” he said.

“It is frustrating that Thursday’s draw has had to be cancelled.

“Hopefully any issues can be resolved and the competition is played.”

Henderson says Glentoran are “fully committed” to this year’s Setanta Sports Cup and believes organisers have found an ideal format for the competition.

“Glentoran have no problems participating in the Setanta Cup. We are delighted to be involved,” he added.

“It is the best format in years with the competition operating during the League of Ireland and the Irish League seasons.

“The quarter-finals are in June, with the semi-finals scheduled for August.

“We also look at the quarter-final game as ideal preparation for our European games in July.

“We would rather be playing the likes of Dundalk or Shamrock Rovers than having to organise friendlies against lower-ranked opposition locally.”

This year’s Setanta will see €30,000 go to the winners, €15,000 to the runners-up and €4,000 for the other six teams.

There is also a subsidy of €1,000 to be paid to the away team in the Cork City fixture to assist with travel costs, while away clubs will keep all revenue from their own ticket sales.

Linfield were the inaugural winners of the Setanta back in 2005 but haven’t featured in the event since March 2013.

Like Glentoran, Portadown remain keen to play in this season’s competition, but Crusaders – who won the Setanta in 2012 – and Glenavon have reservations over midweek games.