As 20 participants from outside the Premiership weigh up their Irish Cup options, Steven Beacom and Alex Mills find out which clubs intend to take part and who will be turning down the Irish FA’s invitation.
There is no point in rushing into any decision just yet.
We will talk with the players and the committee. If the NI Executive don't let us back to train until the middle of April, then there would be no point playing in the competition. It all depends on when we'll be back training and the availability of friendly games we can arrange.
Our lads have not been together since before Christmas. It's hardly ideal preparation. Personally, I think we are being used to fulfil a fixture to enable the Premier League boys to get their hands on a trophy and book a ticket to Europe. I'll take counsel from the players because they are the boys who will be representing the club. If we do play, we will want to give a proper account of ourselves, so that means a proper pre-season training programme.
I fully understand why Championship clubs have pulled out.
If I was in their position and having to pull players in off furlough, I would do the same. We are in a position that we can play, but I wouldn't like to train for one week and then go into an Irish Cup game. I would feel uncomfortable playing any Premiership club without any sort of serious training.
We haven't seen any real action for almost one year and we are expected to go in against teams that are training two or three times a week and fulfilling two competitive fixtures as well.
Our committee will have the final say. If they want us to compete and the players want to play then I'll prepare them the best way I can. My personal opinion is we shouldn't be involved. I would just love the IFA to make a call and play the Irish Cup between Premier League clubs.
For the health and safety and the welfare of my players, I don't think we should be involved, although that's a decision for our committee.
We are asking boys who haven't kicked a ball in 12 months to put their bodies on the line against Premiership teams that have been going full pelt for six months. It would be difficult enough in normal circumstances.
Because we haven't been training, it would mean our lads would be putting their bodies under a lot of stress. My players mean more to me than that.
Personally, I don't see the point of Championship and Intermediate teams playing in the Irish Cup. Why doesn't someone at the IFA show a bit of leadership, bite the bullet and let the Premiership teams play in the tournament?
What we need is someone with a calm head to show a bit of sense. I'm more concerned about my players' welfare. It just doesn't sit right with me. I have to ask, is football really worth it? I don't think it is.
We asked the players for their opinion and, overwhelmingly, they want to get back playing.
We have talked long and hard about their mental health and the fact they need that release of being together again. They are crying out for a date to get back training again.
Of course, there is also a sense of reality about competing in the Irish Cup - the blue riband knockout tournament. I have assured them there will not be a lot expected of them.
If the conditions are right, if we're given the proper amount of time to train and if everything falls into place, we will fulfil the fixture. But that's on the proviso we are allowed to train and given the proper time scale.
If we follow our sports scientists, we normally go into a pre-season schedule and not play a competitive game for at least three weeks. So, we would be looking at five to six weeks' preparation.
The decision will be made by the committee because there will be financial implications involved.
As far as I'm aware, there is a meeting next week to discuss the situation on whether they participate or not.
Ards are one of a few clubs at this level that have a number of professional players, so it is probably more difficult because there could be a financial burden. If players have to come off furlough, then it will be down to costs. It could be an expensive venture.
As manager of the club, I'll accept their decision. If someone tells me we are playing in the Irish Cup, then we'll prepare the best way we can. If we are told we are pulling out, so be it.
It's a sad state of affairs as we are being used by the IFA to play in the flagship competition after Championship and Intermediate clubs were snubbed earlier in the season. Like it or not, everything now comes down to money.
It's a shambles - you couldn't make it up.
It's been a disgrace what the IFA have made us do since July. It's been a crazy period. The IFA have hit clubs a slap in the face asking us to play in the Irish Cup after not granting Championship clubs elite status. It's a joke.
I don't think the people wearing the suits at the IFA realise that clubs have no means of revenue. They are in dreamland. Half of those boys must be from another planet. They don't understand the hardships clubs are going through. Some are so arrogant to suggest we'll play the Irish Cup without any consultation with clubs. In my 25 or 30 years involved in Irish League football, I've never experienced anything like it.
We are the only Championship in Europe not playing - that sums up the IFA - yet they want us to play in the so-called top knockout tournament. Pathetic!
If the Executive and the Government give the green light for outside competitive sports to begin and, as long as we are given enough time to prepare properly, then I'm all for it.
Mental health is obviously a massive concern at the minute and, after the last lockdown, I could tell some of our boys were at the end of their tether.
I've a fairly young squad and they get on well, but I could see physically on their faces they were feeling the strain.
Personally, if it is medically possible and the guidelines are set in place, then we should do it. It's the big tournament of the year and there is a lot of prestige involved.
Of course, we would need a four-to-six-week period to prepare. Physical fitness is a worry - the last thing we want is someone picking up a serious injury.
I know the lads are busting to get back to some sort of normality.
It's perhaps a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I still haven't heard anyone talk about the funding for Covid testing.
If the Covid testing comes down to the clubs, I don't think the club could afford it financially.
We will play in the Irish Cup and can't wait to get back on the green, green grass.
We want to get our players back to training and playing for their mental health. We are a community club and like a family and want to do right by everyone at Dollingstown and, most importantly, our players.
We will obviously need preparation time and a couple of friendlies before our Cup game on May 1 and after that hopefully the regional cup competition we proposed to NIFL can take place.
For us, that would be ourselves, Loughgall, Annagh United, Armagh City, Banbridge Town and Newry City if they all want to play. All these matches would be great for the wellbeing of our players and could act as pre-season for next season.
There has been a huge amount of criticism of the Irish FA and obviously communication with NIFL was not great and we feel we should have been awarded elite status, but the IFA President David Martin has consistently said that the Irish Cup would take place and, in that regard, that's more clarification than we've had all season as a Championship club.
We will do what's best for Ballinamallard United. We have consulted with the players, management and club committee about the situation and it is our intention to compete in the Irish Cup with the caveat that there is a reasonable lead-in time to our match in terms of preparation and training.
We would also ask the IFA that we are treated the same as Premierships clubs in terms of Covid testing and that there is financial support to play the match with no supporters potentially being allowed in the ground. If conditions are right, we will play in the Irish Cup.
The Irish FA have been in touch with us and have said they will be issuing information on the competition next week which we will read with interest.
We are looking forward to seeing the firm proposals from the IFA in relation to the Irish Cup. We need to know the finer details such as when, as a club, we would have the chance to train again, which would be very important for our players, whether we will be awarded elite status for the competition and what Covid testing would be in place.
We are open to discussions with the IFA about all of this.
Championship and Premier Intermediate League clubs and players have gone through a lot not playing the last year and there has been loads of complaining done about not getting elite status and now, when the chance comes to play football again, I can't understand why clubs wouldn't grab that opportunity with both hands.
The committee at Portstewart have been very good and have left the decision about the Irish Cup to our players but I knew I didn't even need to ask them. They want to play.
Our boys want to get back to some sort of normality and playing football does that and helps their mental health. To me, that's the most important thing in all this and to see boys smiling and laughing with each other again.
So as soon as we get the go ahead to train and play, we intend to do so and we will be playing in the Irish Cup and in the regional cup competition that will hopefully be organised.
In fact, once we start we won't be stopping because our players have missed football so much. They are a great bunch of lads and can't wait to get at it again.
We are 100% prepared to play in our Irish Cup game with Loughgall.
My players and myself as a coach are busting to train and play football together. We have really missed that and I feel that, as soon as we are allowed to train and play, it would be good for everyone connected with the football club both mentally and physically.
The match with Loughgall is a big one for us. They are a good side but if we could manage to get a result we could potentially play a big Premiership side like last season when we went to Coleraine. I would never miss an opportunity for my lads to play in games like that.
The club are waiting to find out more information and I feel that is the right course of action to take.
From the Irish FA, we want to know what sort of preparation time we would have going into our game with Banbridge Town. We would like to know confirmed dates when we would be allowed to train and we want to establish what sort of financial assistance would be available from the IFA to help us play the match because there will be running costs to get the game on, especially if no fans are allowed to attend.
We feel it is important to have as much information at hand before making a decision. We will also talk to our players about the situation and, as manager, if the club decide to proceed, I will be happy to go ahead.
We are on board for the Irish Cup.
We spoke to our players who we feel are the most important people in this and, once we are given the all clear to return, we want to get back out on the pitch.
Everyone at the club has missed football and it will be good for all of us to be back together. It is something to look forward to.
We will need some preparation time ahead of our first match in the Cup and we will try and run a tournament in North Down shortly after we get eliminated - or if we get to the Final, we will have to wait a bit longer!
I respect and appreciate the stance of other clubs but we are determined to honour our Irish Cup fixture away to Linfield.
My obligation is to our players and if there is an opportunity to play football again, we feel we should do it.
We have to think about mental health and how our players have felt through this pandemic. As a club, we have never played at Windsor Park against Linfield and, after the last year, we want to give our players something to look forward to and give them a lift. Even if it wasn't Windsor, we all just want to play football.
Yes, we will need preparation time, but this is one occasion when the result isn't everything. It's about getting our boys back playing football.
The club is very disappointed we never got playing any football at all this year.
Earlier in the season, we faced Cliftonville in the Shield but it was all taken away from us again.
Championship and Intermediate clubs were treated poorly, anything we said fell on deaf ears. Now there is a big end-of-season party happening and they want us to come along, but we hadn't been invited to any function all year. We were left in limbo and now we are expected to go out and perform as elite athletes - a status we were denied all season.
The bottom line is the players want to get back playing again. If that is the case, they'll have my full backing, but the committee will make that call.
We've been drawn against Newington, who are in a similar position to us, but how are teams like Dundela going to meet the challenge of Glentoran, who have been playing all season? It's not a level playing field.