Northern Ireland Football League Cup

Last updated
Northern Ireland Football League Cup
BetMcClean.com Cup logo.jpg
Organising body Northern Ireland Football League
Founded1987
Region Ulster Banner.svg Northern Ireland
Number of teams35
Current champions Coleraine (2019–20)
Most successful club(s) Linfield (10 wins)
Soccerball current event.svg 2021–22

The Northern Ireland Football League Cup (BetMcLean League Cup for sponsorship purposes), also known colloquially as the Irish League Cup, [1] [2] is a national football knock-out cup competition in Northern Ireland open to all member clubs of the Northern Ireland Football League. It is the third-most prestigious competition in domestic Northern Irish football after the NIFL Premiership and Irish Cup. It should not be confused with the Irish League Floodlit Cup which ran from 1987–88 to 1997–98. Unlike the Irish Cup, the League Cup does not have a berth for UEFA Europa Conference League qualification. The cup has been operated by the Northern Ireland Football League since the 2013–14 season when it took over the administration from the Irish Football Association (IFA), after which the cup was renamed to the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) Cup. [3]

Contents

Since the 2017–18 season, the Cup has been sponsored by McLean Bookmakers. [4] The competition's previous sponsors are JBE (2015–16), [5] WASP Solutions (2013–14 and 2014–15), [6] Irn Bru (2011–12 and 2012–13), [7] Co-operative Insurance (2001–02 to 2010–11), Coca-Cola (1998–99 to 2000–01), Wilkinson Sword (1991–92 to 1997–98), and Roadferry Freight (1986–87 to 1990–91).

Coleraine are the current holders, after they defeated Crusaders 2–1 in the 2020 final to win the competition for a second time, the first time they had won the trophy since the 1987–88 season.

Format

Unlike the Irish Cup, the League Cup is restricted to the 35 Northern Ireland Football League clubs competing in the NIFL Premiership, NIFL Championship, and NIFL Premier Intermediate League. The competition uses a knock-out system. Each round consists of a single match. In the event that the scores are level, extra time is played, and if the teams are still level, there is a penalty shoot-out.

The 16 highest-ranked clubs from the previous season's league standings (all 12 NIFL Premiership clubs plus the top 4 NIFL Championship clubs) are exempt from the competition until the second round. 6 of the remaining 19 clubs across the NIFL Championship and NIFL Premier Intermediate League are randomly drawn to enter the competition in the first round. The 3 first round winners then join the other 29 clubs in the second round - the round of 32. The 16 highest-ranked clubs from the previous season are then seeded in the second round, to avoid drawing each other. The second round is the only round of the competition in which seeding is used. From there on, the competition uses a standard knock-out format, consisting of a third round, quarter-finals, semi-finals and a neutral venue final.

History

The competition began with 32 clubs in a straight knock-out format in February 1987, and included teams from the Irish League B Division until 1997–98. From 1998–99 until 2007–08, only senior (Irish League and Irish Premier League) teams competed, but the competition was opened up to the 17 Championship clubs in 2008–09, and again in 2010–11 to include clubs from Championship 2, after the Championship 2 League Cup was abolished. From 2001–02 until 2007–08, a group stage followed by a knock-out system was used instead of the straight knock-out system, and for two seasons (2008–09 and 2009–10) two-legged home and away aggregate ties were used up until the quarter-finals, instead of single matches.

When it was first introduced in the 1986–87 season, it was one of a number of senior cup competitions run by the Irish League, originally to compensate for the relatively few league fixtures (traditionally 22 or 26), but also as vehicles for sponsorship revenue. The League Cup would have been considered less prestigious than the long-standing Gold Cup and Ulster Cup. Over time however, these other cup competitions were phased out as the number of Irish League fixtures increased and the public appetite for additional competitions reduced, leaving the League Cup as the only cup competition run by the Northern Ireland Football League and now established as the third most prestigious competition in Northern Ireland after the national top-flight and national cup. The actual trophy presented to the winners is the old City Cup, which was another senior Irish League competition that was discontinued in 1975.

The first final took place on 9 May 1987 at Glentoran's ground, the Oval, and was contested by Linfield and Crusaders. Linfield became the inaugural winners of the cup, defeating Crusaders 2–1. Since then, Linfield have been the most successful club in the competition, winning the Cup a record 10 times overall in a record 13 final appearances - their three final defeats all coming against Big Two rivals Glentoran. The most common final has indeed been the Big Two derby, which has occurred seven times - the last of which came in 2005–06. The 1988–89 final, played between the two sides at the Oval on 11 November 1988 was won courtesy of a goal by Glentoran goalkeeper Alan Patterson, via a kick from his own penalty area. This was the first time that a goalkeeper had ever scored in a British football final. [8]

Cliftonville hold the record for the most consecutive wins, having lifted the Cup on four occasions between 2013–2016. Fifteen different clubs have reached the final, but only twelve clubs have gone on to win the cup - and only six of those have done so more than once. Carrick Rangers (once), along with Larne and Newry City (twice each) are the only three clubs to have played in the final but never won the Cup. Conversely, three clubs have a 100% record in the final, lifting the Cup in their sole final appearance to date: Bangor in 1993, Lisburn Distillery in 2011, and Dungannon Swifts in 2018. In 2008–09, Championship side Portadown became the first intermediate club and the first club from outside the top flight to reach the final, and subsequently to win the cup, after defeating Premiership side Newry City 1–0. That was also the first final to be played outside Belfast, with Mourneview Park, Lurgan hosting the match. It was attended by UEFA President Michel Platini and Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington who was in Northern Ireland for the FIFA meeting held in Newcastle.

The biggest winning margin ever recorded in a final is 4–0, which has occurred twice: in 1999–2000 when Linfield defeated Coleraine, and in 2012–13 when Cliftonville defeated Crusaders. On four occasions, the same two clubs have met in consecutive finals. Linfield and Glentoran have done so three times: 1997–98 & 1998–99, 2001–02 & 2002–03 and 2004–05 & 2005–06, while Cliftonville and Crusaders repeated the feat in 2012–13 and 2013–14. Both clubs agreed to toss a coin for home advantage in the 2013–14 final, with Cliftonville winning the toss. As a result, Solitude was chosen as the final venue for the first time in the competition's history. [9]

In the 2015–16 competition, Cliftonville became the first club ever to reach four consecutive League Cup finals, and subsequently to win four consecutive Cups, after they defeated Ards 3–0 in the final. [10] Ards were appearing in the final for the third time overall, and became only the second club from outside the top flight ever to reach the League Cup final, emulating Portadown in 2008–09. Ards' previous final appearance had also been against Cliftonville, when they won the Cup 2–0 on penalties after a 0–0 draw in 1994–95. Ards also set a record for the longest gap between final appearances of 21 years between 1994–95 and 2015–16. This broke the previous record of 19 years between Newry City's appearances in 1989–90 and 2008–09.

Media coverage

The final was initially broadcast as highlights on UTV throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Live coverage of the final first began on the BBC in 2005, and continued until Sky acquired the rights to show the 2013 and 2014 finals on Sky Sports as part of a deal to cover Northern Ireland international matches. Following the 2014 final, it returned to the BBC in 2015 after Sky ceased their coverage of Irish League football. Dungannon Swifts' win in the 2018 final was broadcast live on Sky Sports enabling the entire town of Dungannon to enjoy the historical result, Dungannon winning a major trophy for the first time in their history . [11]

Records

Final results

( a.e.t. )Match level after 90 minutes. Decided in extra time.
( a.e.t. )pens.Match level after 90 minutes and extra time. Decided by a penalty shootout.


EditionSeasonDateWinner
(number of wins)
ScoreRunner-upVenueAttendanceTitle Sponsor
1 1986–87 9 May 1987 Linfield (1)2 – 1 Crusaders The Oval, Belfast Roadferry Freight
2 1987–88 28 November 1987 Coleraine (1)1 – 0 ( a.e.t. ) Portadown
3 1988–89 30 November 1988 Glentoran (1)2 – 1 Linfield 10,000
4 1989–90 19 December 1989 Glenavon (1)3 – 1 Newry Town Windsor Park, Belfast 1,000
5 1990–91 13 March 1991 Glentoran (2)2 – 0 Ards 4,000
6 1991–92 14 April 1992 Linfield (2)3 – 0 Larne The Oval, Belfast Wilkinson Sword
7 1992–93 20 April 1993 Bangor (1)3 – 0 Coleraine Windsor Park, Belfast 2,000
8 1993–94 26 April 1994 Linfield (3)2 – 0 Coleraine The Oval, Belfast 4,500
9 1994–95 25 April 1995 Ards (1)0 – 0 ( a.e.t. )(2 – 0 pens.) Cliftonville Windsor Park, Belfast 3,500
10 1995–96 19 September 1995 Portadown (1)2 – 1 Crusaders 2,600
11 1996–97 15 October 1996 Crusaders (1)1 – 0 Glentoran 3,000
12 1997–98 9 September 1997 Linfield (4)1 – 0 Glentoran
13 1998–99 4 May 1999 Linfield (5)2 – 1 Glentoran 6,500 Coca-Cola
14 1999–2000 18 April 2000 Linfield (6)4 – 0 Coleraine 2,963
15 2000–01 24 April 2001 Glentoran (3)1 – 0 Glenavon 2,515
16 2001–02 27 November 2001 Linfield (7)3 – 1 Glentoran 6,200 Co-operative Insurance
17 2002–03 3 December 2002 Glentoran (4)2 – 0 Linfield 5,700
18 2003–04 11 November 2003 Cliftonville (1)1 – 1 ( a.e.t. )(5 – 4 pens.) Larne 3,089
19 2004–05 9 November 2004 Glentoran (5)2 – 1 ( a.e.t. ) Linfield 6,000
20 2005–06 10 December 2005 Linfield (8)3 – 0 Glentoran 6,845
21 2006–07 2 December 2006 Glentoran (6)1 – 0 Cliftonville 6,910
22 2007–08 2 February 2008 Linfield (9)3 – 2 Crusaders 5,200
23 2008–09 28 February 2009 Portadown (2)1 – 0 Newry City Mourneview Park, Lurgan 4,100
24 2009–10 27 March 2010 Glentoran (7)2 – 2 ( a.e.t. )(4 – 1 pens.) Coleraine Windsor Park, Belfast
25 2010–11 2 April 2011 Lisburn Distillery (1)2 – 1 Portadown Mourneview Park, Lurgan
26 2011–12 28 January 2012 Crusaders (2)1 – 0 Coleraine Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballymena Irn-Bru
27 2012–13 26 January 2013 Cliftonville (2)4 – 0 Crusaders Windsor Park, Belfast 4,948
28 2013–14 25 January 2014 Cliftonville (3)0 – 0 ( a.e.t. )(3 – 2 pens.) Crusaders Solitude, Belfast 4,300WASP Solutions
29 2014–15 24 January 2015 Cliftonville (4)3 – 2 Ballymena United Windsor Park, Belfast 2,654
30 2015–16 13 February 2016 Cliftonville (5)3 – 0 Ards Solitude, Belfast 2,930JBE Mechanical Electrical
31 2016–17 18 February 2017 Ballymena United (1)2 – 0 Carrick Rangers Seaview, Belfast 3,031No sponsor
32 2017–18 17 February 2018 Dungannon Swifts (1)3 – 1 Ballymena United Windsor Park, Belfast 2,995BetMcLean.com
33 2018–19 16 February 2019 Linfield (10)1 – 0 Ballymena United 5,700
34 2019–20 15 February 2020 Coleraine (2)2 – 1 Crusaders 4,688
2020–21Competition not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Ireland
35 2021–22 19 February 2022

Performance by club

ClubWinnersRunners-upWinning YearsRunners-up Years
Linfield 103 1986–87, 1991–92, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2001–02, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2018–19 1988–89, 2002–03, 2004–05
Glentoran 75 1988–89, 1990–91, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2006–07, 2009–10 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99, 2001–02, 2005–06
Cliftonville 52 2003–04, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16 1994–95, 2006–07
Crusaders 26 1996–97, 2011–12 1986–87, 1995–96, 2007–08, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2019–20
Coleraine 25 1987–88, 2019–20 1992–93, 1993–94, 1999–00, 2009–10, 2011–12
Portadown 22 1995–96, 2008–09 1987–88, 2010–11
Ballymena United 13 2016–17 2014–15, 2017–18, 2018–19
Ards 12 1994–95 1990–91, 2015–16
Glenavon 11 1989–90 2000–01
Bangor 10 1992–93
Lisburn Distillery 10 2010–11
Dungannon Swifts 10 2017–18
Larne 02 1991–92, 2003–04
Newry City 02 1989–90, 2008–09
Carrick Rangers 01 2016–17

Final venues

There have been 34 League Cup finals contested during the competition's history so far, played at six different grounds. Windsor Park has been the most common venue, having hosted 23 finals.

VenueFinals hostedFirst finalLast final
Windsor Park 23 1989–90 2019–20
The Oval 5 1986–87 1993–94
Mourneview Park 2 2008–09 2010–11
Solitude 2 2013–14 2015–16
Ballymena Showgrounds 1 2011–12 2011–12
Seaview 1 2016–17 2016–17

Related Research Articles

Ballinamallard United F.C. Association football club in Northern Ireland

Ballinamallard United Football Club is a semi-professional Northern Irish football club playing in the NIFL Championship. The club, re-formed in 1975 after being dormant since the 1960s, hails from Ballinamallard, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and plays its home matches at Ferney Park. Club colours are all royal blue (home), and all white (away).

The Irish Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly referred to as the Irish Cup is the primary football knock-out cup competition in Northern Ireland. Inaugurated in 1881, it is the fourth-oldest national cup competition in the world. Prior to the break-away from the Irish Football Association by clubs from what would become the Irish Free State in 1921, the Irish Cup was the national cup competition for the whole of Ireland.

The Irish Intermediate Cup is a Northern Irish football competition for teams of intermediate status, including NIFL Premiership reserve sides. It is a straight knock-out tournament and is currently sponsored by Ladbrokes.

The George Wilson Memorial Cup is a competition open to the reserve football teams of member clubs of the NIFL Premiership. Initially it was open to all members of the B Division, both "attached and unattached", but since 1977–78 it has been limited to reserve sides only.

The 2011–12 IFA Premiership was the fourth season since its establishment after a major overhaul of the league system in Northern Ireland, and the 111th season of Irish league football overall. The season began on 6 August 2011, and ended on 28 April 2012.

The 2012–13 IFA Premiership was the fifth season of Northern Ireland's national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, and the 112th season of Irish league football overall.

This page details football records in the Northern Ireland.

The 2013–14 NIFL Premiership was the sixth season of Northern Ireland's national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 113th season of Irish league football overall, and the first season of the league operating as part of the newly-created Northern Ireland Football League. The season began on 10 August 2013 and concluded on 26 April 2014.

Northern Irish football clubs have participated in European football competitions since 1957, when in the 1957–58 season, Glenavon took part in the European Cup – the first Northern Irish club to do so. In total, 16 different clubs have represented Northern Ireland in European competition.

The 2013–14 Irish Cup was the 134th edition of the premier knock-out cup competition in Northern Irish football since its introduction in 1881. The competition began on 7 September 2013 with the first round and ended on 3 May 2014 with the final. The competition ran without a principal sponsor, but for the second successive season the final was known as the Marie Curie Irish Cup final, after the IFA once again awarded the naming rights for the final to the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The 2014–15 NIFL Premiership was the seventh season of Northern Ireland's highest national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 114th season of Irish league football overall, and the second season of the league operating as part of the Northern Ireland Football League. The season began on 9 August 2014, and concluded with the final round of fixtures on 25 April 2015.

The 2014–15 Northern Ireland Football League Cup was the 29th edition of Northern Ireland's secondary football knock-out cup competition, and the second season of the competition under the control of the Northern Ireland Football League. It was contested by the 12 members of the NIFL Premiership and the 29 members of the NIFL Championship. The competition began on 12 August 2014 with the first round, and concluded on 24 January 2015 with the final.

The 2014–15 Irish Cup was the 135th edition of the premier knock-out cup competition in Northern Irish football since its introduction in 1881. The competition began on 23 August 2014 with the first round, and concluded on 2 May 2015 with the final. For the first time since 1995, the Oval was chosen as the final venue following the discovery of damage to a stand at Windsor Park during the stadium's redevelopment.

The 2015–16 Irish Cup was the 136th edition of the premier knock-out cup competition in Northern Irish football since its introduction in 1881. The competition began on 18 August 2015 with the first round and concluded with the final at Windsor Park on 7 May 2016. The cup was sponsored by Tennent's Lager, the competition's first title sponsor since 2012.

The 2015–16 Northern Ireland Football League Cup was the 30th edition of Northern Ireland's football knock-out cup competition for national league clubs, and the third edition of the competition as the Northern Ireland Football League Cup. This season's League Cup was sponsored by JBE Mechanical Electrical, and was contested by the 40 clubs in the NIFL Premiership, NIFL Championship 1 and NIFL Championship 2. The number of participants fell by one this season following Ballymoney United's relegation from the 2014–15 NIFL Championship 2 to regional football. The competition began on 18 August 2015 with the first round, and concluded on 13 February 2016 with the final at Solitude.

The 2016–17 NIFL Premiership was the ninth season of Northern Ireland's highest national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 116th season of Irish league football overall, and the fourth season of the league operating as part of the Northern Ireland Football League. The fixtures were announced on 7 July 2016. The season began on 6 August 2016 and ended on 29 April 2017, with the play-offs taking place in May 2017.

The 2017–18 NIFL Premiership was the 10th season of Northern Ireland's highest national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 117th season of Irish league football overall, and the fifth season of the league operating as part of the Northern Ireland Football League. The season began on 11 August 2017 and concluded on 28 April 2018, with the play-offs taking place in May 2018.

The 2018–19 NIFL Premiership was the 11th season of Northern Ireland's highest national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 118th season of Irish league football overall, and the sixth season of the league operating as part of the Northern Ireland Football League. The season began on 4 August 2018 and concluded on 27 April 2019, with the play-offs for promotion/relegation and the Europa League then taking place in May 2019.

The 2019–20 NIFL Premiership was the 12th season of Northern Ireland's highest national football league in this format since its inception in 2008, the 119th season of Irish league football overall, and the seventh season that the league operated as part of the Northern Ireland Football League. The fixtures were released on 26 June 2019. The season began on 9 August 2019 and was initially scheduled to conclude on 25 April 2020, with the promotion/relegation play-off scheduled to take place in the first week of May 2020. However, the season was suspended on 13 March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Ireland, with the clubs having only played 31 of the 38 rounds of fixtures. The season did not resume after the suspension, with the final games having been played on 7 March 2020.

The 2020–21 Irish Cup was the 141st edition of the premier knock-out cup competition in Northern Irish football since its inauguration in 1881. The competition began on 27 April 2021 and concluded with the final at Mourneview Park, Lurgan on 21 May 2021.

References

  1. BBC
  2. Newsletter
  3. "NORTHERN IRELAND FOOTBALL LEAGUE". NIFL Premiership.
  4. NI Football League
  5. "JBE TO SPONSOR LEAGUE CUP". nifootballleague.com. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  6. "NI FOOTBALL LEAGUE CUP SPONSORSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT". nifootballleague.com. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  7. Irn Bru unveiled as new League Cup sponsor
  8. Glentoran Football Club – The Pride of East Belfast – Legends
  9. "Cliftonville get home advantage for League Cup final". BBC Sport. 28 December 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  10. "League Cup final: Cliftonville beat Ards 3–0 at Solitude". BBC Sport. 13 February 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  11. "Sky Sports drop Irish League". belfasttelegraph.co.uk. Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2015.