Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ulster big guns go head to head

The Setanta Sports Cup will continue to be a prominent part of the Irish football calendar for the next six years after the television channel last night announced a further 2million euro injection into the cross-border competition.

After only two years of the initial four year agreement, Setanta have doubled the length of their contract, with a 25% increase in the prize money from 2009 onwards.

At present 400,000 euro per season is pumped into the competition and that will rise to half a million in two seasons time.

The extended sponsorship is a major boost for the competition and if the draw keeps throwing up such exciting groups as yesterday's for the 2007 competition, then it is very welcome.

After coming together in the same section in last season's competition, the three biggest clubs in Northern Ireland have been drawn together again.

Glentoran will open the tournament in February with a home game against Derry City, while in the same group on the same night Linfield travel to holders Drogheda United.

Drogheda beat Linfield in last season's semi-final at Windsor Park on their way to lifting the cup and revenge will be on their minds on Monday February 26.

Having won the cup double south of the border, missed out on the league title on goal difference and going on a thrilling UEFA Cup adventure, Derry City will be seen as one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

With all eight teams in action on the opening evening of matches, Portadown will travel to Shelbourne and Dungannon Swifts will host Cork City.

The draw wasn't without its controversy. After Drogheda had been allocated their place in group one as holders, it was revealed when Linfield came out of the pot that they too had to be placed in group one. It later transpired that this was a mistake and the berth Linfield were placed in was the one place in which they shouldn't have been.

According to the match schedule the Blues will host Derry City on Monday March 26, but Northern Ireland play Sweden at Windsor Park in a Euro 2008 qualifier just 48 hours later.

The IFA and FAI are working to resolve the matter and the matches between Linfield and Derry may have to be reversed.