The draw for the 2020/21 Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup took place last night – as organisers vowed to play the 124th edition of the competition in spite of the chaos caused by Covid-19.
Aberdeenshire and District Football Association (Adfa) bosses have decided to use this season’s Shire Cup – which sees the winning team secure the second-oldest trophy in association football – as a warm-up tournament ahead of the return of the Highland League.
There is growing optimism Highland sides will be back in league action by October and the Shire Cup – which will be contested by all of the Aberdeenshire-based Highland outfits, as well Aberdeen’s reserves, and Junior sides Banks o’ Dee and Dyce – will be played before this expected start.
Although dates for the four rounds of action have not yet been confirmed, it is hoped the tournament can be played in September and October.
Adfa secretary Willie Young said: “We want to try and get this year’s Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup played, despite the expected tight fixtures calendar due to Covid-19.
“Aberdeen will start on August 1 and have their European commitments and the Highland League we think will start in October. We’re not sure when the Juniors will start.
“There’s an opportunity we think to get the competition started late September or early October, although we’re waiting for confirmation from the Scottish Football Association.
“But there is a desire from the Adfa and clubs to move forward with the competition this year.
“There are some really good ties.”
Young added the view the Shire Cup “only works with fans”, so it is crucial that supporters are given the go-ahead to attend matches before it kicks off.
He said: “If it’s delayed we’ll move it to later in the season, but there is that desire to get it going.
“It’s our premier competition and we’re grateful to the Evening Express for continued sponsorship.”
The format for the 2020/21 Aberdeenshire Cup is a first round of three ties, with five teams receiving a bye to the quarter-finals. The last-eight games will then be followed by a semi-final and final.
The honour of performing the draw at Marischal Square last night fell to local football stalwart Alan McRae – who recently finished his term as president of the Scottish Football Association – and Douglas Gallacher, who played Highland League football for Rothes, Inverness Caledonian and Shire Cup entrants Keith.
Holders Fraserburgh received a bye to the quarter-finals along with the Dons B team.
The last-eight also threw up a derby meeting between Keith and Huntly after both received first round byes.
Meanwhile, debutants Dyce were first out of the hat and will have to get through four matches to lift the trophy.