A heavyweight clash and several matches featuring minnows against bigger guns will be among the mouth-watering and intriguing ties in the first phase of this season’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup.
The draw for the Round of 32 in the competition - it was made earlier this evening at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park and livestreamed by BBC Sport NI - produced several combinations to whet the appetites of Irish Cup purists.
There will be three all-Premiership clashes when Northern Ireland’s premier cup competition kicks off in early January. They include Glenavon at home to Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United, who were defeated by Glentoran in the 2020 final, against Premiership new boys Portadown at Ballymena Showgrounds.
However, the big one will undoubtedly be at Coleraine Showgrounds where Coleraine, winners of the trophy in 2018, are set to face Crusaders, who won the cup in 2019. Coleraine have been semi-finalists in each of the last four seasons, while the Crues have had their fair share of silverware over the past decade.
Holders Glentoran have a local derby to look forward to at The Oval where Championship side Dundela will provide the opposition, while in the west of the country there’s a derby clash between Championship sides Ballinamallard United and Dergview.
Intermediate outfit Portstewart have been drawn to face Premiership side Cliftonville - the game will be played at Solitude - and fellow intermediate outfit Belfast Celtic will take on top flight team Carrick Rangers at Taylor’s Avenue.
There are three Premiership v Championship ties: Warrenpoint Town v Ballyclare Comrades, current league champions Linfield against Annagh United and current league leaders Larne v Newry City.
And there are half a dozen Championship v Intermediate ties, including Ards v Dollingstown, St James’ Swifts v Harland and Wolff Welders (at Tillysburn), PSNI v Institute (at Brandywell), Newington v Knockbreda (at Knockbreda), Loughgall v Banbridge Town and Queen’s University against Bangor.
Samuel Amfo-Okoampah, Country Manager - Ireland of Halewood Artisanal Spirits, which produces Sadler’s Peaky Blinder beers, said: “The 2020 Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Final was a nail-biting affair with Glentoran snatching a dramatic win in extra time, which was a fitting end to a thrilling cup week as we came together to welcome back football after the Covid suspension.
“Now the 2021 draw is upon us we go again as the Glens look to defend the cup and lift it for a 24th time, with all the challengers dreaming of their own run to glory.
“We look forward now to more drama, more heroes and more memories as we hope for a vintage 2021 Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup.”
The Round of 32 games are scheduled to be played on Saturday 9 January, however the matches may have to be rescheduled if the Northern Ireland Executive introduces further Covid lockdown measures. At present the Irish Cup is not classified as an elite competition.
Today’s draw was made by Irish Football Association President David Martin, who is also chairman of the association’s Challenge Cup Committee, which decided to scale back the Irish Cup competition this season due to the pandemic. It means the traditional fifth round - with its 32 teams – has effectively become the first round.