Only 32 clubs will compete for this season’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup, the Irish Football Association has announced.
The decision to reduce the number of participating clubs has been taken by the association’s Irish FA Challenge Cup Committee.
The committee said it had assessed the “ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the early rounds of the Irish Challenge Cup” and unanimously decided to reduce the number of participants in the 2020-21 competition to 32 clubs.
The competition will now get under way on Saturday 9 January 2021 and involve the 24 senior clubs of the NIFL Premiership and Championship along with the four semi-finalists of the McComb’s Coach Travel Intermediate Cup from season 2019-20. The remaining four places will go to the next four teams ranked highest in last season’s league pyramid based on points per game.
Last season the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup attracted 130 teams, made up of senior clubs and intermediate clubs, however the committee said today’s decision to reduce the number of participating clubs this season was “in the best interests of the competition and with the current social and health situation in mind”.
It also said it hoped to return to the traditional cup format in the 2021-22 season. The traditional format sees intermediate sides compete in four rounds before being joined by the 24 senior clubs in the last 32 (fifth round).
Clubs not able to enter the competition this season will receive a full refund of their entry fee.
The eight intermediate clubs that have been invited to participate in this season’s Irish Cup are: Dollingstown, Newington, St James’ Swifts, Belfast Celtic, PSNI, Portstewart, Bangor and Banbridge Town.