A number of clubs are calling on Hockey Ireland “fight harder” for the sport’s top leagues to be recognised as “elite” competition. Featuring World Cup silver medalists and Olympians, the EY Hockey Leagues were called to a halt when government moved to level 5 restrictions with only those “elite” competitions remaining on the agenda.
Hockey Ireland – in consultation with Sport Ireland – felt the club game was more suited for the secondary “senior club championship” classification, a huge source of frustration for a growing number of clubs. That second tier of competition was offered an exemption to proceed under Level 3 restrictions, but the onset of Level 5 halted action after three weeks.
And Dave Passmore – who doubles as both the Irish women’s U23 and Catholic Institute’s coach – whose club are among a group making their feelings known to their governing body. “Our club are making a submission and I know a number of others are too,” Passmore told the Irish Examiner. “I am pointing the finger at Hockey Ireland because they are our representative body. I am looking at them to fight for us, to say we are elite. There is a general feeling we weren’t consulted [to see how clubs viewed the sport]. I expect the [Catholic] Institute girls to do three physical sessions a week outside of our twice or three times a week sessions. Often, we do individual sessions with players. The national coaches have made that clear and, as Irish Under-23 coach, club hockey is essential in the development of our athletes. There has been a big step up in terms of fitness and quality and it definitely supports their development.”
He feels the demands are on a par, at the very least, with competitions which did get the go-ahead.
“For example, from a women’s perspective, the FAI’s Women’s National League is going ahead. Is that considered a professional sport? I don’t think many of those players are any different to hockey in the number of games or times they train. It’s inconsistency which is hard to accept.” The move means hockey will be postponed until early December at the earliest but, realistically, there is unlikely to be any top hockey until the new year.
With the European Championships brought forward to June in 2021 to account for the Olympic Games, it leaves a very limited window to complete the EYHL as planned, particularly with clubs unable to train for the foreseeable future.
In his role as a lecturer in sport science, Passmore points to research that the incident rate for ACL and hamstring injuries quadrupled this summer for GAA players. As such, it would not be safe to return to play immediately.
“My summation is there’s not going to be indoor in December and January which is a real shame. Removing it does give a six-week window to catch up, but we can’t use it if we are not training. The demands of the game now so difficult and different to replicate from just physical training.”