Fixtures row winds way to Munster as Cliodhna Sargent lashes out

Cliodhna Sargent

The fixture rows dogging Irish hockey have made their way to Munster after Ireland vice-captain Cliodhna Sargent waded into the debate. 

The Irish Hockey Association secured hosting rights for World League 2 — the first step on the road to Rio 2016 and the biggest tournament on Irish shores since the men’s Olympic qualifiers in 2012 — last May. 

Sargent’s Irish side begin their Olympic qualification on Saturday March 14 against the Ukraine at UCD.

But her Cork Harlequins club-mates will that day be taking on UCC in a top-of-the-table Munster League match, which could decide the title, without Sargent and potentially Yvonne O’Byrne as well.

The clash prompted Sargent to publicly criticise the Munster Branch of the Irish Hockey Association’s (MBIHA) handling of the fixture-setting.

“Great to see the Munster branch don’t care about and aren’t willing to support the international players based within their province!” she wrote on Facebook.

“Not only do they schedule matches during our important WL2 tournament but they also ensure internationals aren’t available for league deciders!! Terrible way of promoting hockey within the province.”!! !!

An emergency branch meeting was due to take place last night to discuss the issue, but some officials are privately aggrieved Sargent made her criticism public.

They believe clubs could have found solutions of their own to a problem which has largely arisen due to postponements earlier in the season, while there is also sympathy for other clubs whose seasons are being dragged out as a result.

Clubs learned to live without their internationals, especially in Olympic qualification years — in Leinster, most of the Irish squad played only 10 of 18 league games — but Cork Harlequins manager Rob O’Sullivan believes an exception should be made for a tournament of WL2’s magnitude.

“I don’t mind missing players due to a normal international or a training camp, but the fact this game will decide the league and there is an Olympic qualification tournament on our doorstep is just baffling,” he said.

There are similar issues in Leinster, where five cup finals — including the men’s and women’s Leinster Senior Cup deciders — have been fixed for St Patrick’s Day.

The women’s final between Hermes and Railway Union will take place at Grange Road around the same time as Ireland meet Canada in UCD. The debate on how to marry domestic and international seasons is ongoing.

In Leinster, title-winning Hermes coach Rudi Wortmann and Pembroke’s second XI coach Patrick Good have spoken out at how their campaigns have been shaped around the international season.

Wortmann questioned why his quadruple-chasing side played a number of double weekends in poor weather conditions to get their league finished by February 28.

Good’s charges have a seven-week break before their Junior Cup semi-final on April 18, having played four games in eight days in February.


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