Northern Ireland Football League Cup

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This article is about the tournament in Northern Ireland. For the equivalent tournament in the Republic of Ireland, see League of Ireland Cup.
Northern Ireland Football League Cup
Wasp Solutions League Cup.jpg
Founded 1987
Region Northern Ireland
Number of teams 41
Current champions Cliftonville
(2013–14)
Most successful club(s) Linfield (9 titles)
2014–15

The Northern Ireland Football League Cup (known as the WASP Solutions League Cup for sponsorship purposes)[1] and previously the Irish League Cup, is a national football knock-out cup competition in Northern Ireland open to the 41 Northern Ireland Football League clubs. It is the third-highest rated 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 initially under the sponsorship of Budweiser and latterly Coca-Cola. The winners qualify for the next season's all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup. The cup is operated by the Northern Ireland Football League, who in 2013 took over the administration from the Irish Football Association (IFA) for the 2013–14 season onwards, after which the cup became known as the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) Cup.[2]

Currently sponsored by WASP Solutions,[1] the competition's previous sponsors include Irn Bru (2011–12 and 2012–13),[3] 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).

Cliftonville are the current holders, after they defeated Crusaders 3–2 on penalties following a 0–0 draw after extra time in the 2014 final.[4]

Format[edit]

The competition is open to the 12 NIFL Premiership clubs and the 29 NIFL Championship clubs, and uses a knock-out system. The top 16 ranked clubs from the previous season's league system receive byes into the second round, which includes the 12 Premiership clubs, and the top four ranked clubs from Championship 1. Of the remaining 26 Championship clubs, 20 enter in the first round, with the remaining six randomly drawn to receive byes into the second round. The second round draw is seeded so that the top 16 clubs from the previous season avoid each other. The second round is the only round of the competition in which seeding is used. From there on, the competition has a third round, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

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 semi-finals are played at neutral venues. The final, generally, is played at Windsor Park.

The final has been broadcast live on television since the 2005–06 season initially on BBC One NI or BBC Two NI and in 2013 on Sky Sports.

History[edit]

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, 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 the past decade or so however, these other cup competitions have been phased out as the number of Irish League fixtures has increased and the public appetite for additional competitions has reduced, leaving the League Cup as the only surviving cup competition run by the Irish League and now established as the third most prestigious competition in Northern Ireland. The actual trophy presented to the winners is the old City Cup, which was another senior Irish League competition that ended in 1975.

The first final took place on 9 May 1987 at the Oval, and was contested by Linfield and Crusaders. Linfield became the first ever winners of the cup, defeating Crusaders 2–1. Linfield have gone on to win the cup nine times, more than any other club. They have appeared in twelve different finals, which is a record they share with rivals Glentoran. They also hold the record for the most consecutive wins (three): 1997–98, 1998–99 and 1999–2000. The most common final has been the Big Two Derby which has occurred seven times, with the last time being in 2005–06. Linfield have won on four occasions and Glentoran on three. 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.[5]

Ten different clubs have won the cup, but only five clubs have done so more than once. Twelve different clubs have reached the final, with Larne and Newry City being the only two clubs that have reached the final but never won the competition, both having appeared in the final twice but losing on both occasions. In 2011, Lisburn Distillery became the tenth different club to win the cup, in what was their first ever appearance in the final. In 2008–09, Championship side Portadown became the first intermediate club and the first club from outside the top flight to reach the final. They subsequently became the first intermediate club and the first club from outside the top flight 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, which Cliftonville won. As a result, Solitude was chosen as the final venue for the first time in the competition's history.[6]

Records[edit]

Final results[edit]

* Match level after 90 minutes. Decided in Extra time.
Match level after 90 minutes. Decided by a penalty shootout after extra time.


Season Date Winner
(number of titles)
Score Runner-up Venue Attendance
1986–87 9 May 1987 Linfield (1) 2 – 1 Crusaders The Oval, Belfast
1987–88 28 November 1987 Coleraine (1) 01 – 0 * Portadown
1988–89 30 November 1988 Glentoran (1) 2 – 1 Linfield 10,000
1989–90 19 December 1989 Glenavon (1) 3 – 1 Newry Town Windsor Park, Belfast 1,000
1990–91 13 March 1991 Glentoran (2) 2 – 0 Ards 4,000
1991–92 14 April 1992 Linfield (2) 3 – 0 Larne The Oval, Belfast
1992–93 20 April 1993 Bangor (1) 3 – 0 Coleraine Windsor Park, Belfast 2,000
1993–94 26 April 1994 Linfield (3) 2 – 0 Coleraine The Oval, Belfast 4,500
1994–95 25 April 1995 Ards (1) 0 0 – 0 (2 – 0 p) Cliftonville Windsor Park, Belfast 3,500
1995–96 19 September 1995 Portadown (1) 2 – 1 Crusaders 2,600
1996–97 15 October 1996 Crusaders (1) 1 – 0 Glentoran 3,000
1997–98 9 September 1997 Linfield (4) 1 – 0 Glentoran
1998–99 4 May 1999 Linfield (5) 2 – 1 Glentoran 6,500
1999–2000 18 April 2000 Linfield (6) 4 – 0 Coleraine 2,963
2000–01 24 April 2001 Glentoran (3) 1 – 0 Glenavon 2,515
2001–02 27 November 2001 Linfield (7) 3 – 1 Glentoran 6,200
2002–03 3 December 2002 Glentoran (4) 2 – 0 Linfield 5,700
2003–04 11 November 2003 Cliftonville (1) 0 1 – 1 (5 – 4 p) Larne 3,000
2004–05 9 November 2004 Glentoran (5) 02 – 1 * Linfield 6,000
2005–06 10 December 2005 Linfield (8) 3 – 0 Glentoran 6,845
2006–07 2 December 2006 Glentoran (6) 1 – 0 Cliftonville 6,910
2007–08 2 February 2008 Linfield (9) 3 – 2 Crusaders 5,200
2008–09 28 February 2009 Portadown (2) 1 – 0 Newry City Mourneview Park, Lurgan 4,000
2009–10 27 March 2010 Glentoran (7) 0 2 – 2 (4 – 1 p) Coleraine Windsor Park, Belfast
2010–11 2 April 2011 Lisburn Distillery (1) 2 – 1 Portadown Mourneview Park, Lurgan
2011–12 28 January 2012 Crusaders (2) 1 – 0 Coleraine Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballymena
2012–13 26 January 2013 Cliftonville (2) 4 – 0 Crusaders Windsor Park, Belfast 4,948
2013–14 25 January 2014 Cliftonville (3) 0 0 – 0 (3 – 2 p) Crusaders Solitude, Belfast 4,300
2014–15 24 January 2015 Windsor Park, Belfast

Performance by club[edit]

Club Winners Runners-up Winning Years
Linfield 9 3 1986–87, 1991–92, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2001–02, 2005–06, 2007–08
Glentoran 7 5 1988–89, 1990–91, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2006–07, 2009–10
Cliftonville 3 2 2003–04, 2012–13, 2013–14
Crusaders 2 5 1996–97, 2011–12
Portadown 2 2 1995–96, 2008–09
Coleraine 1 5 1987–88
Ards 1 1 1994–95
Glenavon 1 1 1989–90
Bangor 1 0 1992–93
Lisburn Distillery 1 0 2010–11
Larne 0 2
Newry City 0 2

Total cups won by town or city[edit]

Ten different clubs have won the cup, and the overwhelming majority of cups have been won by clubs from Belfast.

Town or city Cups won Clubs
Belfast 21 Linfield (9), Glentoran (7), Cliftonville (3), Crusaders (2)
Portadown 2 Portadown (2)
Coleraine 1 Coleraine (1)
Newtownards 1 Ards (1)
Lurgan 1 Glenavon (1)
Bangor 1 Bangor (1)
Ballyskeagh 1 Lisburn Distillery (1)

Final venues[edit]

There have been 28 League Cup finals contested during the competition's history so far, played at five different grounds. Windsor Park has been the most common venue, having hosted 19 finals.

Venue Finals hosted First final Last final
Windsor Park 19 1989–90 2012–13
The Oval 5 1986–87 1993–94
Mourneview Park 2 2008–09 2010–11
Ballymena Showgrounds 1 2011–12 2011–12
Solitude 1 2013–14 2013–14

References[edit]

External links[edit]