The League of Ireland Cup (Irish: Corn Sraithe na hÉireann) is a football competition open to all League of Ireland clubs and sometimes invited clubs from the lower levels of the Republic of Ireland football league system. Occasionally, the sides invited have included junior league representative selections.
The format has changed from year to year. For the most part it has been used a precursor to the league season, with 6 groups of 4 teams (geographically based), with the winners and two best runners up going on to the last eight (which started the knockout phase). The knockout stage would be played midweek through the season. In the late 1990s the cup went into a straight knockout format and recently has reverted to again starting with a group phase, this time with 8 groups of 3 with only the winners progressing. In 2006, the competition was once again contested on a straight knock-out basis, with a convoluted regionalised seeding system determining pairings and byes in the early rounds. The winners of the cup receive a €25,000 prize(2013).
The League Cup Final has also changed format many times. They have been played on neutral grounds, with two-legged games and currently (and historically most times) a draw is made to see which finalist gets home advantage.
The competition began in 1973, replacing the earlier League of Ireland Shield. Starting with the 2005 competition, the winner of this competition receives a place in the Setanta Cup.
From 2009, the League of Ireland Cup will be sponsored by Electronic Arts and branded for sponsorship reasons as the EA Sports Cup.
1 Includes results for Limerick and Limerick City.
2 Includes results for Galway Rovers.
3 Includes results for Waterford FC.
Bass League Cup: 1975/1976 – 1978/79
Opel League Cup: 1986/87 – 1989/90
Bord Gáis League Cup: 1990/91/ – 1995/96
Harp Lager League Cup: 1996/97 – 1998/99
Eircom League Cup: 1999/00 – 2008
EA Sports Cup: 2009 –
The Final has been broadcast since 2005 live on Setanta Sports.