Hunt for missing piece of Linfield's Premiership trophy
Photographs of jubilant Linfield footballers receiving the Danske Bank Premiership trophy have sparked a mystery over a missing piece of the cup.
For the ornate lid of the famous Gibson Cup was nowhere to be seen amid the celebrations.
The Blues clinched their first title triumph for five years with a famous 3-1 win over Cliftonville at Solitude last weekend.
The absent silverware led to the trophy's cup running over with conspiracy theories from rival fans and rumours of where it was.
For amateur soccer sleuths, it was a case of now-you-see-it, now-you don't, because last year's pictures of former champions Crusaders getting their hands on the trophy showed the Gibson Cup was intact with its lid sitting on top of the trophy.
Initial attempts by the Belfast Telegraph to lift the lid on the riddle of the half-empty cup drew a blank.
The Northern Irish Football League (NIFL), who run the Danske Bank Premiership, denied they had scored an own goal by not having the complete trophy ready to hand over at the end of the competition.
A spokesman said the trophy's lid had been damaged and was undergoing repairs. But when asked how the damage was caused, he said he wasn't sure the NIFL were fully aware of the facts.
However, he later claimed that the repairs had been necessitated by 'years of general wear and tear' to the lid.
"It was just unfortunate that it couldn't be fixed in time for Saturday's presentation," he added.
Crusaders said they weren't to blame for the damage.
Spokesman Michael Long said: "The lid wasn't right when we won the league a couple of years ago and eventually the authorities took it away to fix it."
It's understood that the lid is in a Belfast jewellers for expert remedial work and, in particular, to the figure sitting on the top of the cup.
New Gibson Cup holders Linfield declined to comment.
But a source said: "We are looking forward to being reunited with the complete trophy."
The Gibson Cup was presented to the Irish League by a president of Linfield, Robert Gibson, in the 1890s.
Linfield have won the league title on 52 occasions.
And David Healy's side will be hoping another trophy follows this afternoon when they take on Coleraine in the Irish Cup final at the National Stadium.