Hockey Ireland's new season plans not welcomed by all

Hockey Ireland's new season plans not welcomed by all

Hockey Ireland finally announced the format for the upcoming EYHL Division 2 season but frustration remains that no review of the competition has taken place in the last four months.

The governing body confirmed there would be no promotion and relegation from the top tier and there would be no change to the controversial second level of national competition.

It means there is no Munster involvement in the men’s elite competition once again with Cork C of I’s unbeaten season and qualification for the promotion play-offs counting for nothing.

They will be joined in EYHL2 by Bandon – second in Munster when lockdown fell – leaving Harlequins out in the cold, much to their chagrin as they were leading their EYHL2 group and in good shape for a play-off berth.

Munster’s women’s representatives remain the same: Harlequins and Catholic Institute are in the top division, UCC and Cork C of I in the second level.

But the lack of change or a review of the competition format has left many venting their disapproval at the lack of movement on the key issue.

In April, a group of eight women’s clubs in EYHL2 and a selection of men’s clubs called on the governing body to overhaul the second tier, moving to a “full-season” format.

Currently, the competition exists in addition to provincial leagues, giving squads up to 30 games before cup and indoor hockey is taken into account over a 27-week season.

Monkstown coach Simon Lowry says player welfare is being “totally disregarded” while Lurgan’s Robbie McMinn described the lack of review as “ludicrous”.

Provincial representatives from Leinster, Munster and Ulster all called for club concerns to be taken on board.

Leinster clubs have “overwhelming support” for change with over 90% backing the full season proposal in separate polls conducted in April and July which they communicated to Hockey Ireland.

Malcolm Coombes, from the Munster competitions committee, says the southern province requested a full review of the whole structure of national leagues over the course of the summer.

“In preparation for a review we thought was coming down the tracks, we sent a survey to all our clubs to see if there was an appetite for change,” he told the Irish Examiner. “Included was a question of whether they think EYHL2 should go to a full season league.” From their review, a majority of the Munster clubs are not in favour of the full-season proposal but Coombes added that they wanted clubs to know what they were playing before season’s start.

Hockey Ireland’s statement, however, ended with a line that such a review will “take place in the coming months”.

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