Sponsor boost for cup
The Irish Cup will have a new sponsor on-board when the Premier League clubs take their bow in the competition in just over three weeks time.
This season's fifth round draw took place yesterday without a new backer to succeed former sponsors Nationwide being announced, but a deal is understood to be close to completion.
Clubs from the top flight enter the competition on January 13 and after months of trying to find fresh investment, the clock is now ticking on getting someone to plough in the required amount before that date.
Talks are believed to be at an advanced stage, with an announcement anticipated early in the New Year.
Last season the Irish FA found themselves in the embarrassing situation of the Irish Premier League campaign kicking-off without financial investment from a sponsor before Leeds Metropolitan University came on-board in the guise of Carnegie and they are desperate to avoid a similar situation hitting their blue-riband cup competition.
Nationwide have put their cash into backing the Northern Ireland international team after ending their interest in the Irish Cup.
It is believed that a deal with an airline company failed to materialise within the last couple of months.
Yesterday's draw failed to produce a particular stand-out tie, with last season's finalists Linfield and Glentoran both handed home ties against lower ranked teams.
The Blues were drawn away to Oxford United Stars, but their home ground doesn't reach senior standards so that game will take place at Windsor Park, while the Glens will be at home to Ballymoney United.
The 2005 winners, Portadown, will face First Division Bangor who reached last season's semi-finals and Larne, who have been in the semi-finals and final in the last two seasons, are involved in one of just two all-Premier League ties as they host Cliftonville.
Lisburn Distillery, hitting a vein of form recently, travel to 2003 winners and 2004 runners-up Coleraine.
There will be at least two intermediate sides in the sixth round as Amateur League Comber Rec host Laurevale and Irish First Division sides Ards and Dundela will go head-to-head at Clandeboye.