Munster fury at ‘rushed’ format of U21 interpros

Munster’s U21 coaches have spoken of their frustration around the organisation and lack of profile for this year’s U21 interpros.

Men’s coach Andrew Gray and his women’s counterpart Malcolm Coombes believe the tournament’s prestige suffered after it went ahead without Ulster’s involvement, was split over a number of weekends and Dublin venues, and ran alongside club hockey.

While the U16 and U18 tournaments continue to thrive, the U21 and senior events have been problematic for all parties.

Both were cancelled in 2011 and 2012 respectively as cost-saving measures around an Olympic year; since then the senior tournament hasn’t returned while the U21 competition has been held intermittently.

Initially slated to be split over two weekends in November and June, Ulster pulled out of this year’s U21 tournament in October, unhappy with that format and the delay in finalising it.

Eventually it was decided to play the competition on back-to-back weekends in November and December with Coombes claiming Hockey Ireland “rushed into organising the interpros off the back of pressure from Leinster and Munster”, who were also threatening to not participate.

Hockey Ireland said the tournament dates had been proposed and sanctioned through the relevant committee groups. However, the timing of the event, close to college exams instead of in its traditional February slot, didn’t sit well with either Munster coach as both sides were shorn key players who pulled out due to study commitments.

“It seemed that two weekends were chosen at random, and information on the tournament was pathetic,” said Gray.

“The lack of clarity and importance we saw around the interpro tournament this year was a major factor in some players’ decision to pull out.”

Coombes echoed this point: “The way the interpros were organised and the lack of importance shown to it was a huge disappointment. This trickled down to the clubs and players themselves.”

Gray also believes the naming of the 2014 Ireland U21 men’s training panel prior to that year’s interpros, and his lack of discussions to date with the national team’s coaches surrounding selection of Munster players, “shows the original reason for this interpros - selecting Irish teams - has already passed”.

Hockey Ireland say U21 head coach Jonny Caren is keen to express the relevance of the team and interpro tournament in senior Irish selection: “He was in attendance at the tournament, and will continue to review all the tournament footage and contact the coaches in due course when considering his selection.”

Fixtures

Saturday:

Men EY Hockey League Rd 9: Annadale v Cookstown, Lough Moss, 2.30pm; Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers, Lisnagarvey, 3pm; Monkstown v Banbridge, Rathdown, 3pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Glenanne, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Railway Union v C of I, Park Avenue, 2.30pm.

Munster Peard Cup semi-final:

Galway v UCC, Dangan, 2.30pm. Rd 1: Cork Harlequins v Bandon, Farmer’s Cross, 12.30pm.

Women EY Hockey League Rd 9:

Cork Harlequins v Greenfields, Farmer’s Cross, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; Ulster Elks v Pegasus, University of Ulster, 2.30pm; UCC v Hermes, Mardyke, 2pm.

Irish Hockey Trophy quarter-finals:

Avoca v YMCA, Avoca, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v Clontarf, Rosbrien, 1.30pm; North Kildare v Bandon, North Kildare, 1.30pm; Rainey v Galway, Rainey, 2.30pm.

Munster Div 1:

Ashton v Cork C of I, Ashton School, 3pm.

Sunday Men Munster Peard Cup semi-final:

Cork Harlequins / Bandon v C of I B, TBC.

Women EY Hockey League Rd 9:

UCD v Ards, Belfield, 1.45pm.

Munster Div 1:

Clonakilty v Bandon, Clonakilty Sports Centre, 11.30pm.


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