Ireland’s club structures in line for major revamp

Ireland’s club hockey structures look set for a major revamp in the 2015/16 season with the proposal of a two-tier Irish Hockey League.

Ireland’s club structures in line for major revamp

The Irish Hockey League working group (IHLWG) held meetings in Cork, Dublin and Belfast earlier this year to test the waters for a “full” IHL, which would take participant clubs out of their domestic leagues.

The competition has undergone a couple of formats since being introduced in 2007 to replace the Club Championships. Currently, the best 12 men’s and women’s teams compete in an IHL packed into six weekends at the season’s end.

Initially, a single-division league was envisaged but at the meetings, more clubs stated their desire to be involved in some capacity to fulfil their ambitions, reduce the potential for ‘super clubs’ and mitigate against player movement. While each province had its own unique concerns, there was an overall desire for meritocracy within any new structure, as opposed to the initial plans of maintaining regional representation.

The current format has led to friction between players and administrators over fixture scheduling — especially for those involved in the Irish setups — thus the removal of elite teams from domestic leagues should help streamline the calendar.

While IHL teams will still compete in their provincial cups, the number of league games they play will be reduced; IHL teams played between 21 and 23 domestic and national league games this season, but will have a total of 18 under the new structure.

The IHLWG has devised separate competitions for the men and women, acknowledging in their report that “a full IHL will not work for some” due to work or family commitments, while exams may prevent schoolchildren from playing a full part.

Interested parties can submit their views on the proposal via an online survey until May 30th; a final proposal will be presented to the Irish Hockey Association board in June.

HOW NEW IRISH HOCKEY LEAGUE WOULD WORK

Men

* Two divisions of 10 teams, playing home and away (18 games per team).

* Winner of ‘IHL1’ qualifies as Ireland’s number two side for Europe.

* Top three in IHL and Irish Senior Cup winners to compete in Irish Hockey Championships — winner qualifiers as Ireland’s number one side for Europe.

* Initial qualifiers for IHL1, based on provincial ranking: Ulster 1-4, Leinster 1-4, Munster 1 plus winner of wildcard playoff between Ulster 5, Leinster 5, Munster 2.

* Initial qualifiers for IHL2, based on provincial ranking: Losers of playoff between Ulster 5, Leinster 5, Munster 2, Ulster 6-8, Leinster 6-8, Munster 3 plus winner of wildcard playoff between Ulster 9, Leinster 9, Munster 4.

* Relegation from IHL1: 10th placed team automatically relegated, replaced by winners of IHL2; 9th placed team in plays off against 2nd placed team in IHL2.

* Relegation from IHL 2: 10th placed team relegated to home province; 9th placed team joins round robin with winners of Ulster, Leinster and Munster leagues; 2 teams promoted to IHL2.

Women

* One division of 10 teams, playing home and away (18 games per team).

* IHL2 to comprise an eight-team end-of-season competition with qualifiers from 2015/16 provincial leagues (2 pools of 4 followed by semi-finals and final).

* European qualification: Same as men’s.

* Initial qualifiers for IHL1, based on provincial ranking: Ulster 1-3, Leinster 1-4, Munster 1 & 2, Connacht 1.

* Qualifiers for IHL2 after 2015/16 domestic season: Ulster 1-3, Leinster 1-3, Munster 1 and winner of Munster 2 v Connacht 1.

* Relegation from IHL 1: Same as men’s.

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