Cork Harlequins have been handed a pair of 5-0 defeats for two EY Hockey League matches they did not fulfill before lockdown due to Covid concerns following an appeal by Muckross.
The Farmers’ Cross club decided not to travel to away games on September 26 against Muckross in Dublin and then again on October 10 at Belfast Harlequins.
In addition, Cork C of I and UCC have received the same sanction for their Division 2 games at Trinity and Monkstown, respectively.
All three clubs had initially been given a reprieve with those sanctions put on a “suspended” basis but Muckross duly lodged an appeal over that decision by the Irish Hockey League Sub Working Group.
The appeal cited the new Covid-19 appendices to the competition’s bye laws, circulated to clubs a day before the season started on September 25.
Those bye laws make no mention of “suspended” sanctions with the section titled “Failure to fulfil fixtures” stating when a club refuses to travel, they “shall be considered to have forfeit the fixture” with a 5-0 loss for the defaulting team. In addition, clubs who refuse to travel will also lose home advantage for subsequent games.
The independent appeals board agreed with Muckross’s argument, stating: “It appears common case that Cork failed to fulfil the fixture. The Panel take the view that any team entering a competition must abide by the rules of that competition.
“The reasons for such failure to fulfil the Fixture, whilst compelling, are not relevant to this appeal which is confined to the decision... The suspension of a penalty is not supported in any provision of the Regulations or Appendix.”
As such, all suspended sanctions have now been imposed, meaning Cork Harlequins drop to the bottom of the EY Hockey League table on goal difference with one point from three games. Muckross move off the bottom with their first points of the campaign.
Hockey Ireland, meanwhile, has suggested the EY Hockey Leagues could return as soon as December 12 if given the green light by government later this week.
Many club coaches and players, however, have voiced their concerns over the swift resumption so soon after a six-week ban on collective training, citing fears of a heightened risk of injury.
The quick return is what the governing body has called the “most positive option” with the aim of catching up on the six rounds of postponed matches.
Should this not be possible, two alternative plans are being prepared for the new year which are set to be presented to the regional branches.
A curtailed season has not been ruled out, particularly as the women’s season will need to have an early resolution to account for the international team’s European Championships commitments in June and the Olympic Games a month later.
For the men, there is a wider window to complete the season with their next competitive international fixtures not taking place until August.