Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena United and Glenavon to play in Scottish Challenge Cup

Glenavon and Ballymena United will both play in next season's SPFL Challenge Cup.
Glenavon and Ballymena United will both play in next season's SPFL Challenge Cup.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Ballymena United and Glenavon will be this season's Danske Bank Premiership representatives in the Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup.

The Sky Blues, who finished as runners-up in the league last season, will be joined by third-placed Glenavon in the third round, which will be played on the weekend of 7/8 September.

Since the Irish League sides were first invited to play in the competition in the 16/17 season, it has been the Premiership's top two sides who have taken part. This term, however, reigning champions Linfield will not feature in the competition formerly sponsored by Irn Bru.

This season, of course, Linfield already have two additional fixtures in the form of the Unite the Union Champions Cup. The inaural tie will see the Blues, as Irish League champions, play the 2019 Airtricity League winners in a two-legged final in November. The winners of that tie will pocket €50k, with the runners-up set to received €25k.

Scottish clubs from the Championship as well as Leagues One and Two will play in the SPFL Challenge Cup along with eight teams from the Scottish Highland and Lowland Leagues and the Premiership's U21 sides.

The teams taking part from outside Scotland, as well as Ballymena and Glenavon, will be the Republic of Ireland's Bohemians and Waterford - the country's highest ranked teams not to play in European competition, the Welsh Premier League's top two TNS and Connah's Quay Nomads and England's National League sides Wrexham and Solihull Moors, the best placed teams that were not promoted last term.

While Crusaders exited at the hands of Queen of the South in the second round last season, Coleraine beat Highland League side Formartine United before being beaten by Connah's Quay Nomads.

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In 16/17, both Crusaders and Linfield failed to make it through a round.

However, the following season, Crusaders made it through to the semi-finals by beating Motherwell U20s, Cove Rangers and, notably, Scottish Championship side Dundee United only to be edged out 3-2 by eventual winners Inverness in the final four.

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