The northern province’s governing body urged clubs to stay away from Sunday’s meeting in Dublin, where clubs will vote on whether to expand to a full-season competition, increasing the minimum number of games from five to 18. At least 10 Ulster clubs are nonetheless understood to be attending, ensuring a quorum is achieved and the vote will take place. Ulster Hockey chief executive Angela Platt said they never considered sanctions against those clubs but reiterated that her organisation is not in favour of the current proposal.
“Ulster Hockey continues to have the belief that a full IHL option is not in the best interests of the IHL competition or hockey in Ulster. The option put forward by the IHA for the EGM has not fundamentally changed from the original option put forward, and on which the clubs in Ulster voted against in May. That is supported by the fact that 88% of clubs continue to support that position. Furthermore we would reiterate that clubs in Ulster are open to change — this fact has never been in dispute.”
Just 12 of Leinster’s 54 clubs attended an open forum held on the topic by their province on Monday night, suggesting the issue is not engaging clubs outside the elite end of the game.
Leinster Hockey Association secretary John Flannery said their stance is supportive of the IHL but not to the detriment of their provincial leagues, adding: “The elite is obviously a concern for us but we also have to remember there is maybe 95% of people will not be involved in the IHL and never will be involved in the IHL. Our remit is to look after what is best for Leinster hockey – clubs, schools, the whole lot.”
A number of Munster stakeholders have added their voice to the debate, with UCC’s Shrew Power and Bandon’s Ali Smith both broadly supportive of the venture, while Cork Church of Ireland tweeted their intention to vote yes, calling the proposal “the only way forward” for Munster and Irish hockey.
While the clubs debate something new off the pitch, something much older is happening on it this weekend as round one of the Irish Senior Cup — which dates back to 1894 on the men’s side — gets underway.