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Linfield to pull out of Setanta Cup scrap with Derry

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Linfield have no desire to face Derry City in the Setanta Sports Cup after the club went into liquidation

Linfield have no desire to face Derry City in the Setanta Sports Cup after the club went into liquidation

Linfield have no desire to face Derry City in the Setanta Sports Cup after the club went into liquidation

Linfield are ready to concede home advantage to Crusaders in the final of the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield.

It’s the future of a different competition that is in serious doubt though, with the Blues also at the centre of it.

The Shield decider was originally postponed last month when heavy rain left the pitch at The Oval unplayable and the big freeze that has hit Northern Ireland over the last fortnight put paid to this evening’s rearranged date after an inspection yesterday afternoon.

The only senior football played since Christmas has been two Carling Premiership matches played at Crusaders’ Seaview home, where an artificial pitch was laid back in November and the Shore Road venue may now host the Shield decider.

Indeed it could have been played there tomorrow night had it been possible to make arrangements in time.

“It was suggested to play the County Antrim Shield final at Seaview on Wednesday night in order to get the game played,” revealed Linfield chairman Jim Kerr.

“Playing the game at Seaview — even though it would give Crusaders home advantage — isn’t something that we were against, but the manager wanted to have two training sessions on the artificial pitch before playing a match on it and Crusaders weren’t in a position to be able to offer us that because of other bookings.

“When we were told that wasn’t possible playing the game there this week was a non-starter.

“I wouldn’t put our players in a position where they would have to play on an artificial pitch without having some experience of it beforehand.

“We’re willing to work with the County Antrim to find a way to get the game played.”

One match that Kerr won’t be working to organise is the Blues’ scheduled Setanta Sports Cup return date with Derry City.

The cross-border competition is due to resume next month, with Linfield facing the Candystripes at the Brandywell on Saturday February 27, but Kerr will refuse to take his club to the north-west.

Derry are currently in liquidation, they owe money to players who weren’t paid full wages since August as well as both Linfield and Dungannon Swifts and Kerr won’t face a re-formed club.

“We won’t be playing Derry City in the Setanta Cup,” said Kerr. “The Derry City that qualified for the competition has ceased to exist and they have gone into liquidation owing money to ourselves and Dungannon Swifts — although I have been told that we’ll get all the money. If a new Derry City comes into operation, which looks likely as they are signing players, they still don’t have a right to play in the Setanta Cup.”

The initial shine of the Setanta Cup, which got off to a blistering start in its first season when Linfield won the trophy, has vanished.

The scheduling of the competition, with the league seasons north and south of the border not running in parallel, has been a problem and the financial straits of the sponsors have seen prize money cut.

After being a success in the early stages, the Setanta Cup has been in intensive care for sometime and the Blues are now ready to cut off its life-support.

“As far as I am concerned the competition is now dead in the water,” said Kerr.

“We were told that money would be paid up-front, we received a portion of that and referee’s expenses were then deducted from the second payment.

“The prize money, which has been reduced from the original figure, is in doubt and it’s now going to cost clubs money to play in it.”

Belfast Telegraph