06Oct
By: Alan Good On: October 6, 2014 In: Club, Features, Opinion Comments: 3

Irish hockey will expand to include a full national league next season after a drawn-out debate was finally settled yesterday.

The 2014/15 campaign will see 10 teams compete in both the men’s and women’s Irish Hockey League, moving to an 18-game, full-season format that takes them out of their provincial leagues.

Eight more clubs will compete in an end-of-season playoff – known as IHL 2 – to determine qualifiers for the following season’s competition.

For the maiden competition, the men’s league will be comprised of the top four in Leinster and Ulster, Munster’s champions and a wildcard team. On the women’s side, Leinster’s top four, Ulster’s top three, Munster’s top two and the Connacht champions will get the first “full IHL” underway next September.

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Representatives from 44 clubs attended an Irish Hockey Association EGM at the Stillorgan Park Hotel yesterday, and were asked to vote in two proposals for a full IHL. After much debate, an initial proposal suggesting two full 10-team men’s leagues was defeated as it had only a 51% majority (22 yes to 21 no with one abstention), well short of the 75% required.

However, the second proposal – which allows for the aforementioned IHL 2 to be an end-of-season competition – was carried comfortably with an 87% majority (36 yes, five no, three abstentions).

Ulster Hockey’s request to its clubs to stay away from the vote did not stop 10 clubs from attending. They voted in mixed fashion, but it seems the northern province’s tactics backfired as had just six more clubs attended and voted no, the proposal would not have been carried.

The province’s chief executive Angela Platt maintains they are not against change and will now work with clubs to discuss the way forward. There remain fears in Ulster that their schools system will be compromised by the new league and that provincial leagues will be diluted without their leading sides. While that carries some weight on the women’s side, it is hard to imagine Belfast Harlequins being too upset about not having to play Banbridge next season having lost 14-0 a couple of weeks ago.

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Until now, Ireland had been the only European country without a full national league and avoiding those regional mismatches has been one of the primary drivers behind those who support a new format.

The Irish Hockey Association now hopes the new product will attract increased media attention and sponsorship – whether that can become a reality will have a major impact on the league’s success or otherwise – and should be easier to combine with an ever-more demanding international schedule. IHA chief executive Mike Heskin says attention can now turn to such matters, admitting: “We have ten months now to get this right. There will be difficulties and teething problems.”

Twitter reaction to the dawn of a full IHL

3 Comments:

    • Stephen P Jackson
    • October 06, 2014

    Just off the telephone to the north and the first thing I heard was that some Schools are not going to co-operate.
    That a break away is asking for a NI Hockey Association and that players born in NI have the right to play for their country and not Ireland and if that is not possible that they get the funding to play for the other home nations.
    My thought is that like the independence vote in Scotland this vote will put a strain that will never be repaired and the IHA has won a vote that may better have been lost for a year so that concerns from the majority of the Ulster Branch could have been addressed.
    As ever all this is rumour and maybe speculation but like many things their is no smoke without fire. Personally I do think the sport of hockey has gone down a road that will lead to a weaker game in the near future.
    I hope that wise heads rule but I fear for the game.
    Stephen

    • Leinster based
    • October 06, 2014

    @Stephen – I think that if this is the case, they would be better served looking inwards. As has been stated in both the Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter today, Ulster Hockey botched this from a voting perspective by encouraging their clubs not to vote, something that ultimately might have swayed the vote against their preferred position.

    However, it is not clear from what I can see if many of the clubs are actually on their side on this one despite them claiming an 88pc backing. The five no votes on Sunday? From the representations made, Ulster Hockey, Leinster Hockey, UCD men, Annadale and one other (either Pegasus or Belfast Harlequins – I am not sure which). That is only two clubs out of eight that attended though a couple who may have abstained.

    I think that Ulster Hockey must look inward as been suggested on twitter about how they have acted as they are, at best, culpable of forcing their clubs not to be represented properly at this EGM and discouraging them from taking part in the democratic process. At worst, they have grossly misrepresented the views of their constituent clubs with some of their clubs describing the mandate they took from their consultation meeting as a “sham vote”.

    Interestingly, Leinster Hockey voted no as their stance and only one club followed their lead. The words of this splitting the sport apart and the scare mongering are horribly over-stated; only three sides move out of the Ulster women’s leagues out of 14 leagues. How many teachers/schoolgirls – are on those teams for their seven Saturday away days between September and April in total? Five per team perhaps, a significant number but enough to hold back the huge benefits of the league. Why not Sunday matches if that is a concern?

    • Stephen P Jackson
    • October 07, 2014

    Nice comments and I agree in may areas . But one answer is that many players do not ant to play on a Sunday for religious reasons.
    Many players also would feel that schools comes first and in the main I would support that view. If that to the detriment of the club so be it they should have enough adults to cover that loss.

    I do agree the Ulster Branch needed to look at themselves and should have had a clear path forward but from experience certain clubs will follow their own path .

    I do feel that a person born in NI who wants to play for NI should have that option I coached a lot of people through the years and many of them dropped out at schools level and chose football/ soccer rather than play for Ireland, should they not have their rights addressed.

    But I do agree the right people have to be found to get things right from the outset and they need to it relatively quickly.

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