The new, cross-border Unite the Union Champions Cup was officially launched at Windsor Park on Thursday morning ahead of the two-legged final between Dundalk and Linfield in November.
Vinny Perth’s SSE Airtricity League champions will face the current Danske Bank Irish Premiership holders at Windsor Park in the first-leg on Friday, November 8th with the return game taking place at Oriel Park three days later on Monday, November 11th.
Dundalk midfielder Chris Shields and first-team coach John Gill were in attendance at the launch as well as former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings, who is the 2019 tournament ambassador.
Both clubs will receive €25,000 each for taking part in the tie with the winners guaranteed an additional €25,000 in sponsorship money from Unite. It is the first time that teams from north and south of the border have met since the demise of the Setanta Cup in 2014.
“Everyone in Unite is excited with the prospect of the Champions Cup. Football is something that is in the veins of working-class people and of their communities. It cuts across divides and brings people together,” said Unite the Union regional secretary Jackie Pollock.
“This is a unique initiative — not simply because it brings together the champions on a cross-border basis but because it includes a huge community investment by Unite.
“One-quarter of the total funding for this initiative will go to community and voluntary groups at the frontline of delivering much-needed services in the respective catchments of the clubs. We are looking forward to developing those connections.
“I am also particularly proud that football hero, Pat Jennings, has agreed to become the ambassador for the Champions Cup and endorse this initiative with his name.”
“We’re thoroughly looking forward to the Unite the Union Champions Cup. The return of a cross-border competition is a huge boost for the domestic calendar in Ireland,” said FAI competitions director Fran Gavin.
“It has been fantastic to work with the sponsors, Unite the Union, on their community initiatives and it should be an intriguing final between Dundalk and Linfield, across the two legs.”
“It’s great to be working with Unite and our friends and neighbours in the FAI on this very worthwhile initiative,” said Irish FA President David Martin.
“The Champions’ Cup is a welcome addition to the football calendar and I’m sure this year’s finalists will be looking forward to what should be two exciting matches.”
It was announced at the launch that the Unite the Union Champions Cup second-leg tie will be refereed by FIFA Women’s World Cup Final referee Stephanie Frappart. She will be assisted by Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neill with Paula Brady named as the fourth official.
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