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‘Knockout’ blow for local duo

LOCAL intermediate clubs Strabane Athletic and Ardstraw have been left bitterly disappointed by the announcement that they are to be excluded from this year’s Sadlers Peaky Blinders Irish Cup.

On Monday the Irish Football Association announced that only 32 teams would compete in this year’s prestigious knockout competition.

The competition will get underway on January 9, 2021 and involve the 24 clubs from the Danske Bank Premiership and Bluefin Sport Championship.

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The 2019-20 Intermediate Cup semi-finalists and the next four teams in the league pyramid will also compete.

The IFA committee said it had assessed the “ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the early rounds of the Irish Challenge Cup” and unanimously decided to reduce the number of participants in the 2020-21 competition to 32 clubs.

Last season the Irish Cup attracted 130 teams, made up of senior and intermediate clubs, however the committee said the decision to reduce the number of participating clubs this season was “in the best interests of the competition and with the current social and health situation in mind.”

The teams that will join the Premiership and Championship clubs are Dollingstown, Newington, St James’s Swifts, Belfast Celtic, PSNI, Portstewart, Bangor and Banbrdige Town.

Given their exploits in the Irish Cup in recent times and most notably in the 2018-19 season when they reached the last-16 by defeating the likes of Championship opponents Knockbreda, Banbridge Town and St James’ Swifts, the news that Strabane Athletic wouldn’t be competing in this year’s competition proved a bitter pill to swallow for club 
officials.

The club took to social media to air their grievance. A spokesman posted, “ Today the IFA invited 8 intermediate clubs to participate in this years Irish Cup, which has been curtailed to a total entry of 32.  They are; Dollingstown, Newington, St James’ Swift’s, Belfast Celtic, PSNI, Portstewart, Bangor and Banbridge Town.  I suppose Portstewart, which is to the east of Coleraine, is the closest they can get to “West of the Bann!” The more things change….. the more they stay the same!”

FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S STRABANE CHRONICLE

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 4 Castle Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AB