THE new football season has barely got underway, but the first administrative mix-up has already impacted upon Northern Ireland Intermediate League side Strabane Athletic.
When the Irish Cup first round draw was released last week, eyebrows were raised by players and officials at the Tyrone club when its name didn’t appear in the highly anticipated fixtures.
Having entered the competition and registered an approved pitch, heads were scratched as for the reason behind their unexpected exclusion.
As per usual, Athletic registered Melvin Park’s pitch one, an approved intermediate standard pitch, as their home ground for the 2017/18 season – a pitch they have used for Irish Cup games in the preceding seasons.
However, between then and the first round draw, Derry and Strabane Council wrote to the IFA to inform them that Melvin Park’s Arena pitch was to be upgraded and would be of intermediate standard by October.
For some reason, the IFA assumed that because that pitch would be unable for use in August that meant that Strabane Athletic had no intermediate standard pitch for the first round, which takes place on the 19th of this month despite the fact pitch one had already been registered with them, and excluded them from the Irish Cup.
After some toing and froing between the club, Council and the IFA, the mistake has subsequently been rectified, with the IFA writing to the club, admitting an error had been made and reinstating them into the competition with a bye into round two.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Intermediate League has released the Craig Memorial Cup first round fixtures (to be played on September 9 at 2.30pm). They are as follows: Newbuildings Utd v Ardstraw; Strabane Athletic v Tobermore; Moyola Park v Coleraine Reserves; Desertmartin v Maiden City; Newtowne v Oxford Utd Stars; Magherafelt Sky Blues v Trojans. Byes, Dungiven and Portstewart.