The forgotten race for the Irn Bru cup
The Dafabet Welsh Premier League has just two rounds left, and it is testament to the quality of this season’s competition that there is so much left to play for.
European qualification via third, the play-offs and relegation are all still undecided, meaning 10 sides in the league are still working at full speed towards the final day of the season.
But in all the drama, one prize up for grabs has largely slipped under the radar – the Irn Bru Cup.
Formerly known as the Scottish Challenge Cup it comprises teams from the Scottish Championship, League One, League Two with teams from the Lowland League, Northern Ireland Premiership and the top two from the WPL invited to compete.
News of the Welsh Premier’s involvement with the competition was met by a sense of unknown, as competitive matching of Welsh and Scottish/Irish sides is almost completely untried apart from in Europe.
But it was met well by this season’s entrants, TNS and Bala Town. Bala Town fought hard but were beaten at the first hurdle by Alloa, and TNS enjoyed a strong run to the semi finals where they were knocked out by St Mirren despite taking a 1-0 lead.
The Irn Bru cup has for now been and gone, but its return next season promises better exposure for the Welsh Premier and its clubs along with away days with an international feel.
The top two spots in the Welsh Premier already offer Europe, but the Irn Bru cup adds extra incentive to finish either first and second. TNS have of course sealed first, but the race for second is a two horse race between gap Connah’s Quay Nomads and Bala Town.
The focus of the season for both Bala and Connah’s Quay has been Europe, but with Bala qualified and Connah’s Quay just a point away from a second successive European summer, second and the Irn Bru will now be a target for Colin Caton and Andy Morrison.
The sides have tussled over the second spot for most of the season, with Connah’s Quay spending much of Phase One in 2nd before Bala went on a strong run to knock Nomads down to third.
Intriguingly the two clubs haven’t managed to get any wins over each other in three meetings so far this season – and their final clash this Good Friday will intensify the battle for second and the Irn Bru cup.
Final two fixtures
- Bala: Nomads (A) TNS (H)
- Nomads: Bala (H) Cardiff Met (A)
Bala need four to six points to definitely secure second, but this will be difficult as they face Nomads and then TNS on the final day of the season. If they win on Good Friday, second will be theirs as they would establish a six point lead over gap with one game to go.
However, if Nomads win they will go joint on points with Bala and jump into second place. Both sides have an equal goal difference of +19 as it stands, meaning Deeside could see the two usually solid sides put on attacking displays on Friday night.
If there is a draw, Nomads will still have a chance of finishing second but they must win at Cardiff Met, and hope for a Bala loss against The New Saints.
Some would argue gap Connah’s Quay have the incentive for second with their last two fixtures, but Bala Town will be fighting hard for second and will look for a result against TNS for their JD Welsh Cup final against the Champions in May.
With gap Connah’s Quay and Bala Town emerging as the league’s strongest sides behind TNS, both will want to showcase their talent in both Europe and across Scotland and Ireland – but only one club will have this dream realised.
Nomads host Bala Town at 2:30pm on Good Friday at the Deeside Stadium.
Photo Credit: NCM Media