What’s at stake in the Sports Direct Premiership after the split?

The pinnacle league of Northern Irish football reaches its conclusion as five fixtures remain for each team

Larne players celebrates clinching the Danke Bank Premiership title. The Inver Park side will make their debut in the Champions League against HJK Helsinki
Larne players celebrates clinching the Danke Bank Premiership title. The Inver Park side will make their debut in the Champions League against HJK Helsinki

Here’s a glance at what is still to be decided in Premiership as the top and bottom six teams embark on their post-split fixtures:

The title:

Larne and Linfield remain the only two teams in contention for first place. Larne currently leads Linfield by two points, with the two sides facing each other on Friday April 19 at Windsor Park. Cliftonville sit eight points further back following their defeat to Larne on Tuesday night and seemingly out of the title race.

European qualification:
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Cliftonville v Ballymena Utd 082.JPGADD TO LIGHTBOXDOWNLOAD
Cliftonville Ronan Hale scores his second goal In today's game at the Solitude Cliftonville v Ballymena in the Sports Direct Premiership 12/1/2024 Pacemaker Press
Cliftonville's Ronan Hale will be a crucial player for the Reds in the coming weeks Picture: Pacemaker Press (Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press)

Currently, there are four European spots available to Irish League teams.

Linfield and Larne have all but confirmed a top-two finish. The champions will secure a UEFA Champions League spot in the first qualifying round and second a spot in the UEFA Conference League’s first qualifying round.

Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine are guaranteed a shot at reaching the Conference League’s qualifying rounds. Each team will face each other after the conclusion of the season in a play-off system to determine who gets the prize.

In the split’s lower table, the finish seventh - or top of the bottom six - will have the opportunity to gain a place in European play-off by playing preliminary round against the sixth-placed team. Loughgall, Carrick Rangers, Glenavon and Dungannon are all still in the running for seventh spot.

Another spot is up for grabs in the Irish Cup. If Cliftonville win the Cup but finish third, they will be guaranteed a European place, which means seventh place will go straight into the play-offs and not play a preliminary round.


Ballymena and Newry City are confirmed to be the bottom two teams in the league this season. Ballymena sit 11th with 19 points and Newry City 12th with 17.

The team finishing second from bottom will face the second-placed side of the NIFL Championship in a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off.

Dundela currently sit second in the Championship, however, have not applied for a Premiership license. As a result, if they finish first, only 12th place in the Premiership and second place in the Championship will feature in the relegation play-off with 11th securing safety.

If Dundela finish second, the bottom team in the Premiership will be automatically relegated and the second from bottom team will play the team finishing third in the Championship.

Ballymena will host Newry City in the second-last fixture of the season – a tie that could determine the outcome of this year’s relegation battle.