Irish Cup: Ards become fifth Championship club to withdraw from this season's competition

John Bailie
John Bailie's Ards side finished fourth in the Championship in the 2019-20 campaign

Ards have become the fifth Championship team to pull out of this season's Irish Cup.

The four-time winners join Queen's University, Newry City, H&W Welders and Institute in pulling out of the cup.

Clubs outside the Irish Premiership have not played any league matches since last March as they were not awarded elite status by the Irish FA.

Ards chairman Warren Patton said the decision to pull out was a difficult one for the club.

"As a club with a rich history of success in the Irish Cup this is not a decision we have taken lightly," he said.

"However, we felt it was the best decision for our club and our players. Throughout the 2020/21 season we have prioritised the safety of our players and coaching staff.

"It made little sense to ask our players to return to training for potentially just one fixture, particularly with no guarantees of a Covid testing regime.

"We would like to thank our fans for their patience. Hopefully, we will be reunited for the 2021/22 season."

The IFA announced last month that the Irish Cup would start and be played to a finish in May. It was scheduled to start in January but was postponed because of the involvement of 20 clubs who do not have elite status.

The association said last week that it would monitor the situation, but that for now the teams drawn against those pulling out will receive a bye into the next round.

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