NIFL ‘disappointed’ by lack of consultation over Irish Cup

Gerard Lawlor has revealed the Northern Ireland Football League were not consulted as dates were set for this season’s Irish Cup.

By Steven Crawford
Friday, 26th February 2021, 6:52 pm

The Irish FA confirmed yesterday that the tournament is set to be started and played to a conclusion in the month of May this year - Covid-19 restrictions permitting.

The decision was ratified at an Irish FA Challenge Cup Committee meeting on Thursday evening.

It is reported that the competition will start with the round of 32 on Saturday 1 May with the Final being held on Friday 21 May.

The Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup is set to be started and played to a conclusion in the month of May this year

But NIFL chairman Lawlor said there was was “disappointment” with dates being announced without consultation with them.

“We have had discussions with the IFA and we were fully aware there would be five cup games,” he said.

“What we weren’t aware of is that there was a meeting on Thursday night and that actual dates were being set.

“The disappointment for us is that while there was always an understanding that we would work on dates together, four or five dates have been announced without any consultation with us.

“In fairness to the President he has been very clear in the media the Irish Cup would be played.

“In all the meetings we have had internally at NIFL all the models have included five Irish Cup dates.”

The 12 Premiership clubs will be joined by 20 Championship and Premier Intermediate clubs in the round of 32.

The clubs below the Premiership have not been in action since last March and Irish FA President David Martin said that they hoped to give teams as much time as possible to prepare for their games.

“We understand that Intermediate and Championship clubs need as much time to plan and prepare as possible. There will be an opportunity for clubs to arrange friendly matches which will hopefully go some way to negate the lack of football they’ve experienced,” he said.

“We will work closely with clubs, leagues and officials throughout the process and liaise regularly with the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Doubts though still remain over whether or not those Championship and PIL clubs will fulfil their fixtures.

Lawlor said they will do all they can to help NIFL member clubs, but ultimatley any decision to participate will come down to each individual team.

“It’s a difficult one for us as it’s not our competition,” he said.

“That’s a decision for the NIFL member clubs, but it’s not something we can influence.

“If we can help them in their preparation for the Irish Cup, and the government allows that, we will do everything we can to try and arrange something.

“But it really is down to the clubs and the IFA.”

NIFL Interim Managing Manager, Steven Mills, echoed Lawlor’s sentiments saying: “We had discussions with our Championship and PIL boards last month to look at potential NIFL cups to support their return.

“Most are clear that they just want to get back playing, but there are factors they will have to consider when they do come back.

“It might be better to allow the clubs to come back to do a small pre-season and arrange some friendlies among themselves.

“If we can support it we will look at it.”

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