Linfield decide against going for Setanta Cup glory
The draw for the 2015 Setanta Sports Cup will take place tomorrow - and for the second year in succession Linfield won't be in it.
The Blues turned down their invitation to take part in the all-Ireland competition last season, citing a packed fixture schedule as they battled it out with Cliftonville - who also failed to enter - for the Danske Bank Premiership title and the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that the Windsor Park club, who won the competition 10 years ago, have again knocked back the opportunity to compete.
Their reasons for not playing in this year's event aren't yet clear.
Linfield's place in the competition will instead be taken by Portadown, who are the highest finishers in the Premiership outside of those who qualified for Europe.
Having also opted out in 2014 it means Linfield haven't played in the Setanta Cup since March 2013, when trouble broke out during a match against Shamrock Rovers at Windsor Park. The club has previously denied that this had a bearing on their decision not to take part last season.
For this summer's competition Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders, who won the Setanta Cup in 2012, will also be joined by Glenavon and Irish Cup winners Glentoran.
Dundalk, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic will represent the FAI
The draw will produce four north v south quarter-finals, which will be played over one game between June 20-24 and all will be televised live.
The timing of the competition has always been an issue. In the early years it was played from February to May, with League of Ireland clubs feeling that it didn't suit them as it was right at the beginning of their season, while for Irish League teams it clashed with the latter stages of the league season and important Irish Cup matches.
Splitting it either side of the summer also failed to be a hit with clubs.
The financial attraction of the Setanta Cup has also waned over the years. This season, clubs will compete for a total prize pot of £55,000, whereas Linfield picked up a cheque worth £100,000 for winning the inaugural event back in 2005.
SETANTA SPORTS CUP 2015 PARTICIPANTS: Northern Ireland: Crusaders, Glenavon, Glentoran, Portadown.
Republic of Ireland: Dundalk, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic.