Irish League sides Linfield and Cliftonville have decided not to compete in the 2014 Setanta Sports Cup.
Both sides confirmed that they had declined their invitation to participate in next year’s competition, citing scheduling difficulties with the competition’s springtime start.
The Belfast sides are currently second and third in the Danske Bank Premiership this season, however, both teams suffered big defeats to Airtricity League sides in last year's competition.
Linfield were beaten 7-2 on aggregate by eventual winners Shamrock Rovers, while Cliftonville were hammered 4-0 by Cork City, losing 6-2 over the two legs.
In a statement released by the 2005 Setanta Sports Cup champions, Linfield stated: “After a great deal of consideration, the Board of Directors of Linfield Football Club has decided, reluctantly, not to accept the recent invitation to participate in the proposed 2014 Setanta Sports Cup competition.
“The scheduling of the Setanta Sports Cup games in the springtime when teams from Northern Ireland are approaching the closing stages of their domestic league and Irish cup competitions tends to be less favourable to clubs in the Danske Bank Premiership and this club will always prioritise the League title as the prime target and focus in every season.”
A similar statement from Cliftonville read: “Cliftonville Football Club were pleased to receive an invitation to compete in the 2014 Setanta Sports Cup but, amid an already heavy footballing schedule, which began with the Champions League in July, we have decided not to take up the invitation this season.”
Meanwhile, the FAI have confirmed replacements for the two Belfast sides in the competition and that Setanta Sports have renewed their sponsorship for a further three years to 2016.
Following Linfield and Cliftonville's decision not to participate, Ballinamallard United (fifth in Irish League) and Coleraine (sixth in Irish League) will go into the hat for the draw that takes place on Wednesday.
The clubs involved in the 2014 competition are St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers from the Airtricity League of Ireland, while the Danske Bank Irish League will be represented by Crusaders, Glentoran, Ballinamallard United and Coleraine.
The prize fund of €73,000 will be distributed as follows:
Winners: €30,000 plus €3,000 for participating.
Runners-Up: €10,000 plus €3,000 for participating.
Other participants: €4,500 each.