The future of the Setanta Sports Cup competition was thrown into serious doubt last night after it emerged that Derry City have been dumped out of the All Ireland tournament.
Following a meeting yesterday between Derry City officials and the Setanta Sports Cup committee it is believed the Brandywell men were told that their place in the competition was being withdrawn.
Over the last few months Derry have been expelled from the League of Ireland and have also went into administration and it is understood that those are the reasons why the competition organisers have decided against inviting the new look Derry City back into the cup to fulfil the remaining fixtures, due to resume next month at home to Linfield.
Last week Linfield chairman Jim Kerr told the Belfast Telegraph that the Blues would not be travelling to the Maiden City for the February 27 Group B encounter.
Just where that leaves the competition remains to be seen, but with group matches still remaining before the semi-finals of this season’s competition — which is due to be concluded with the final on May 15 — how it continues without one of the teams that was in at the start is a mystery.
All season clubs from both sides of the border have been complaining about the format of the tournament. Matches have been switched to Saturday afternoons and while it was hoped that would boost attendances and give the competition a higher profile it’s a move that has failed miserably.
With Derry no longer in the competition there has to be serious doubts over weather the tournament can continue with clubs like Cliftonville, Coleraine, Glentoran and Sligo Rovers up in arms as their chance of progressing to the semi-final stages have all but ended because of the Candystripes’ expulsion.
Linfield, who secured the inaugural title in 2005, drew 1-1 with Stephen Kenny’s men last September, but neither side have played since in this year’s competition, which incidentally was expanded to nine teams — to give the holders automatic entry — and comprised three groups of three.