About Ireland FAI Cup
The FAI Cup, officially known as the Football Association of Ireland Senior Challenge Cup, is an annual knock-out association football competition played by teams from the Republic of Ireland, as well as Derry City from Northern Ireland. The competition, organized by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), is presently sponsored by Extra.ie and is also called the Extra.ie FAI Cup due to this sponsorship. Previously, it was called the Free State Cup from 1923 to 1936. The record for the most wins in this tournament is held by Shamrock Rovers, who have won the cup 25 times.
The FAI Cup finals were primarily held at Dalymount Park, Dublin, from the early 1920s until the 1980s. However, a few exceptions occurred, with two replays in the 1920s taking place at Shelbourne Park, and the 1973 replay being held in Flower Lodge in Cork, and the 1984 replay taking place in Tolka Park. Since 1990, the final venue has been changed frequently, owing to the lack of development of Dalymount. From 1990 to 1997, the final was held at Lansdowne Road stadium, then back to Dalymount from 1997 to 1999. From 1999 to 2002, the final was held in Tolka Park, and from 2003 to 2006, it was back to Lansdowne Road. Due to the redevelopment of Lansdowne, the 2007 and 2008 finals were held at the RDS Arena, while the 2009 final took place in Tallaght Stadium. From 2010 onwards, the finals have been held at the Aviva Stadium.
Football in Ireland has a rich history, and the FAI Cup is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions in the country. Shelbourne, Bohemian, and Derry City are the only clubs to have won both the Irish Cup and the FAI Cup. However, Shelbourne and Bohemians won it before the partition of Ireland, while Derry City remained in the Northern Irish league system until 1973 before entering the League of Ireland in 1985. Alton United from Belfast and Derry City are the only teams outside the Republic of Ireland to have won the competition.
Over the years, some remarkable feats have been achieved in the FAI Cup. Athlone Town A.F.C. won the cup in 1924, Dundalk F.C. in 1958, Shamrock Rovers F.C. in 1968, and Sligo Rovers in 2010, all without conceding a goal.
Since 2003, Irish domestic football has adopted a summer setup, a format preferred in Scandinavia, replacing the traditional August to May season. As an “interim” season was played in the second half of 2002, two FAI Cup Finals were held that year, with Dundalk winning in April and Derry City lifting the trophy in November.
Bray Wanderers were the first First Division team to win the Cup in 1990, defeating non-League St. Francis. Bray also made history by winning the Cup in 1999, despite being relegated that season. In 2002, Dundalk won the Cup despite their relegation.
Drogheda United finally won the FAI Cup in 2005 after losing two Cup Finals in the 1970s. Goals from Gavin Whelan and captain Declan O’Brien helped them to a 2-0 victory over Cork City.
The 2006 final between St. Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City was the last football game to be played at the old Lansdowne Road. Derry City emerged as winners after extra-time, with a 4-3 scoreline. A brand new version of the trophy was introduced for the following season, replacing the original FAI Cup.
The biggest win in the competition happened on 29 November 2020 when Dundalk defeated Athlone Town 11-0 in the semi-final stage.
Qualification Requirements for the FAI Cup
The FAI Cup is a prestigious football competition that sees 40 clubs from Ireland compete. Automatic eligibility is granted to all the clubs playing in the League of Ireland. Additionally, clubs playing in Level 3–7 (non-league football) can participate if they qualify through the current season’s FAI Intermediate Cup or FAI Junior Cup competitions. However, all participating clubs must have a stadium suitable for the tournament.
Over the years, the number of entries in the FAI Cup has fluctuated due to the gradual expansion and reorganization of non-league football. In the 2022 season, 39 clubs took part in the competition. While it is rare for top clubs to miss the competition, exceptional circumstances can arise.
It’s worth noting that Northern Irish sides playing in leagues within the Republic of Ireland are also eligible. Currently, only one such club, Derry City, is competing.
To sum up, the FAI Cup has clear eligibility criteria that teams must meet to participate. The competition has seen various changes in the number of entries over time. Don’t miss the chance to watch some of the best football clubs in Ireland compete!