Newry City have welcomed the decision to catapult them back into the JJB Sports Irish Cup — but they maintain the whole eligibility row has left a very bad taste in the mouth.
City will now play Linfield in the semi-finals after Ballymena United lost their second appeal against expulsion from this year's competition.
Newry’s final four clash with the Blues will now go ahead at the Oval on Saturday, April 14 at 3pm — the same day as the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Everton and racing’s Grand National.
Pat McGibbon’s men got the result they wanted after Tuesday's independent hearing, heard by a three-man panel headed by an English-based QC, delivered the ultimate knockout blow to United for playing an ineligible player, Alan Davidson, in their 2-1 win over Newry on March 3.
However, the long running saga placed the Irish FA in a negative light.
City chairman Paul McKenna said: “Whilst Newry City FC welcomes this obvious, clear and final decision it is difficult not to reflect with disappointment that the matter was allowed to escalate to a level which reflected poorly on the administration of the game in Northern Ireland.
“In this sense the club hope that those with the responsibility for administering the IFA Challenge Cup can respect the great traditions of the competition and ensure that no such obvious errors of judgment are made in the future.”
A Ballymena United statement read: “Naturally the club is very disappointed with the decision but we accept and respect the findings of the panel and now consider the matter to be closed.”