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Football just days from comeback as Irish FA finalise Junior Cup schedule

 

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The Irish FA are planning to hold the Junior Cup finals next week.

The Irish FA are planning to hold the Junior Cup finals next week.

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The Irish FA are planning to hold the Junior Cup finals next week.

Competitive football will return to Northern Ireland next week with the Junior Cup semi-finals expected to kick-off a hectic period in four competitions until the end of the month, climaxing with the Irish Cup final on July 31.

Dates for the conclusion of the Irish Cup have been known for some time, with the last four encounters - Ballymena United v Coleraine and Cliftonville v Glentoran - scheduled for July 27 but they won't be the first matches here with something at stake since the sport was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that the four clubs left in the Junior Cup - Enniskillen Rangers, Bessbrook United, NFC Kesh and Willowbank - have been informed by the Irish FA to prepare for their semi-finals on the week beginning July 20, with matches potentially taking place on that date or the 21st or 22nd.

Fermanagh and Western League side Rangers, who have won the trophy in the last three seasons, face Bessbrook, while Kesh take on Willowbank.

The original semi-finals were supposed to be played at Dungannon's Stangmore Park and Loughgall's Lakeview Park respectively but that will not be the case next week as both grounds are closed.

Venues have yet to be confirmed but the IFA are hoping to finalise arrangements in the coming days.

The authorities are determined to finish the Junior Cup, Intermediate Cup and IFA Youth Cup before the Irish Cup final on the last night of the month.

In the semi-finals of the Intermediate Cup, Dollingstown will play St James' Swifts and Belfast Celtic are up against Newington, while in the Youth Cup final it is Cliftonville Strollers versus Institute Under 18s. All clubs are waiting to hear confirmation of dates and venues.

The teams involved in the Irish Cup are permitted to play before their semi-finals but they will be friendlies rather than competitive affairs and Linfield plan to have warm-up fixtures ahead of their Champions League return on August 8.

Belfast Telegraph