Setanta Cup shake-up on the cards to coax back big Northern sides
THE organising committee of the Setanta Cup are mulling over two proposed new formats for next year's competition but have conceded that their efforts to get the top Northern Irish clubs back involved could end up revolving around money.
Sligo Rovers and Dundalk meet in the final of this year's cross-border tournament on Saturday, with the tournament weakened after the top two Irish League sides, Cliftonville and Linfield, decided against entering.
League of Ireland sides dominated the competition again, providing all four semi-finalists. Milo Corcoran, the chairman of the committee, is desperate to revive the fortunes of the flagging tournament.
Setanta are committed to two further renewals, each with a total prize pot of €75,000, but the FAI and IFA commercial departments are seeking further sponsorship to increase the amount.
That could prove decisive in terms of luring the leading Irish League clubs back into the fold.
They opted out of the competition as it clashed with the business end of their campaigns and also cited the reduced prize money.
Corcoran says that the two options for next year are a 16-team knockout tournament with eight from each jurisdiction, which would be played in a straight knockout format with no two-legged encounters and run on a similar time-frame.
Option B is a small four-team affair with just the league and cup winners from north and south, with a cross-border element to two-legged semi-finals and then a decider, with all matches taking place over three weekends after the end of the Irish League campaign in May.
"It would be foolish to go down that road (16-team tournament) if we can't come up with the (extra) money. The other alternative we can do out of the prize fund at the moment of €75,000 is the top two from both leagues," said Corcoran
"It will be north v south, which we always tried to achieve with the draw as much as we could.
"We've talked to the northern clubs (next year it would be Cliftonville and Glenavon) and they're thinking about it. We were up there on Saturday (at the Irish Cup final) and they want to discuss it further. At the end of the day, the prize fund will dictate.
"There are a lot of discussions with clubs but we've put a deadline on it of September 3 to have a decision made and everything set up, because last year it dragged on."
Corcoran expects a crowd of 4,000 in Tallaght for this year's decider. Sligo Rovers officials wanted to stage it on home turf, but Dundalk lobbied for the neutral option.