Ballymena United lose Irish Cup appeal

Alan Davidson
Alan Davidson scored the winning goal for Ballymena against Newry

Newry City will play Linfield in the Irish Cup semi-finals after Ballymena United lost their second appeal against expulsion from this year's competition.

The Irish FA's announcement of the outcome followed Tuesday's independent hearing which was heard by a three-man panel headed by an English-based QC.

United were penalised for playing an ineligible player, Alan Davidson, in their 2-1 win over Newry on 3 March.

Newry will play the Blues at the Oval on Saturday 14 April at 1500 BST.

The independent panel unanimously rejected the Sky Blues' appeal.

The winner of the Linfield-Newry game will play Crusaders in the final.

A statement released by Newry said they welcomed "this obvious, clear and final decision".

"It is difficult not to reflect with disappointment that the matter was allowed to escalate to a level which reflected poorly on the administration of the game in Northern Ireland," added the statement.

"In this sense the club hope that those with the responsibility for administering the IFA Challenge Cup can respect the great traditions of the competition and ensure that no such obvious errors of judgment are made in the future.

"The players, management and fans of the club can now look forward to the semi final tie against Linfield FC which shall be a great occasion for the club."

A Ballymena United statement said the club was "very disappointed with the decision" but added "we accept and respect the findings of the panel and now consider the matter to be closed".

Ballymena beat Newry City in the quarter-finals but were thrown out of the competition after an appeals board ruled that striker Alan Davidson had been ineligible for the game.

The Braidmen then launched a further appeal which led to the setting up of Tuesday's latest hearing, which was also heard by a Belfast solicitor and a law lecturer.

Three weeks ago, the Irish FA's cup committee rejected Newry's initial protest, despite the Championship club pointing out that Ballymena had signed Davidson after the 31 January deadline.

However, the IFA's Appeals Board then overturned that ruling a fortnight ago.

Davidson, who joined Ballymena in February, scored the winner when United beat Newry 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

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