The 2019/20 club season has been deemed “finished” by Hockey Ireland with exactly how this affects the national and provincial leagues set to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Crucially, the season has not been declared void with a competitions working group set to look into the consequences of the decision and publish their findings by April 12.
The group will consist of members of the Hockey Ireland board, their competitions committee and representatives from the four provinces who will consider how final league standings, promotion and relegation, and possible European spots for the 2020/21 season will be determined.
Those conclusions will be published by April 12 at the latest but it will be far from simple to find a one-size-fits-all solution. The EYHL’s regulations do not have a provision for an incomplete season.
For the men’s EYHL, while there were several rounds still to go, Lisnagarvey were on course to be runaway winners with a five-point lead and two games in hand.
At the bottom, Annadale were 11 points adrift. In both cases, it would be reasonable to confirm those placings despite plenty of matches still to play.
The complication, though, would be who gets a second available European spot, usually confirmed at the Champions Trophy; currently three points cover second to fourth with Monkstown having a game in hand.
Similarly, the relegation playoff spot was being tightly contested with Pembroke and YMCA – with a game less played – level on 12 points. How that would tie be broken and whether the playoff game could be played have been a source of online debate.
Who gets promoted? Using the men’s example again, EYHL2 still had a round of group games left to play with only Cork C of I confirmed in the final four from which one side would be promoted and one would earn a battle with ninth place from the top tier.
The women’s EYHL was shaping up for a battle royal in the closing weeks with Loreto three points clear but with a game extra played than chasers Old Alex and Pegasus. Picking a basis for a winner and the two European places on offer from that trio would be hugely contentious.
EYHL2 is in a similar boat to the men’s competition with only Corinthian doing enough to reach the playoffs recording seven wins out of seven. Would that be deemed enough to be handed promotion?
Or would Hockey Ireland be open to expanding leagues to accommodate different scenarios? It could require some serious lobbying from the respective provincial committees to push their clubs’ agendas.
As for the Munster league, Cork C of I’s men and UCC’s women both had perfect records and were well placed for the Division One titles. The chase for the EYHL2 places, however, had plenty of life in it and so much remains to be discussed.
Elsewhere, the Irish men’s team have been provisionally booked in to play in Gniezno, Poland in the EuroHockey Championship II in August 1-7, 2021.
It follows their relegation from the top tier last August in Antwerp and sees them line out in a tournament which also features Austria, Croatia, Italy, Scotland, Switzerland, Ukraine and hosts Poland.
The dates for the tournament do come with a caveat from the European Hockey Federation with the event potentially subject to change depending on when the new Olympic dates are announced.
The Irish women’s tournament was already confirmed for Amsterdam’s Wagener Stadium with the dates confirmed at August 20-29.
Their tournament features Belgium, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Scotland.