Peterhead demand SPFL make Irn-Bru Cup changes after Bohemians-East Fife farce

Peterhead manager Jim McInally.
Peterhead manager Jim McInally.

Peterhead today said the latest Irn-Bru Cup farce has to be the catalyst for changes to the competition.

Bohemians withdrew from the Challenge Cup last night after failing to fulfill their quarter-final tie with East Fife.

The fixture was supposed to be played in November but wasn’t because it was outwith the football season in the Republic of Ireland.

It was then rearranged for Saturday before being postponed seven minutes prior to kick-off due to the pitch at Dalymount Park being frozen.

East Fife already have a packed schedule and Bohs are just starting their 2019 season.

So after extensive discussions about rearranging the game between the clubs, SPFL and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Bohemians withdrew from the tournament, with the Methil men now playing Ross County in the semi-final on Friday week.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “We are grateful to Bohemian FC and to the FAI for their co-operation and assistance in ensuring the smooth conclusion of this year’s Irn-Bru Cup.

“We look forward to welcoming our Irish friends to next season’s competition.”

Bohemians spokesman Luke O’Riordan said: “We deeply regret having to withdraw from the competition.

“But we feel given that the semi-final is due to take place in 11 days’ time, the logistical and time constraints involved in trying to reschedule our quarter-final tie before then was an impossible task and leave us with no other option.

“With little scope to find an alternative date that suited both clubs and following discussions between our club’s board and the first-team management about the distracting effect ongoing disruption could have on preparations for the new league season, we agreed that we have to prioritise that.”

Bohemians’ second-round tie against Peterhead in September almost had to be postponed because they also had an Irish League Cup tie.

Then their opponents Derry City had players called up to the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad meaning the tie was cancelled and Bohs were able to travel to Balmoor, where they won 1-0.

Peterhead general manager Martin Johnston said: “The whole thing is disappointing and I’m embarrassed that we have a national competition where we have a team withdrawing.

“It’s also disappointing that there was no communication with SPFL member clubs about the decision reached before it came out in the public domain.

“It would also be good to find out the reason for this decision being reached. Why have Bohemians withdrawn?

“Was it because they felt bad for East Fife who travelled across to Ireland and had the game postponed?

“We don’t know but it seems like it was the easy option for them to pull out and it belittles the cup.

“This should be the catalyst for change when supporters and clubs say they don’t like something the organisers should change it.

“Everyone is saying they don’t like this competition but we are always being told people like it.

“Well I would like to hear from them because we at Peterhead have yet to meet anyone who likes the current format with colt teams and cross border participants.”

Blue Toon boss Jim McInally, Scotland’s longest-serving manager, added: “It’s just farcical and it’s incredible that Neil Doncaster can say clubs from the Republic of Ireland will be welcomed back next year.

“Change should be discussed and what has happened is laughable. I appreciate East Fife fans made a weekend out of it and it was a big game and it was attractive for them.

“But everything has to be right and it was not right. Teams from the Republic of Ireland shouldn’t be considered because they are a summer league.

“It now needs to be discussed by the clubs who is going to be in the tournament in the future. There needs to be an inquest into how this has happened.”