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Frustration grows as IHL faces further disruption

 

By Graham Hamilton

Irish Hockey League clubs are fast losing patience as the impasse between the governing body and the umpires rolls on.

The Irish Hockey Umpires Association offered to meet Hockey Ireland's board on Saturday to address not only remuneration but also other issues they have been waiting to be sorted, however no meeting took place.

Insufficient members of the board were able to make themselves available and so Hockey Ireland have proposed setting up a conference call between both parties later this week.

The umpires' executive committee, already disappointed at the lack of urgency shown by the board which ended up with the opening round of the marquee IHL competition for men and women having to be postponed, are not happy at being denied a face-to-face meeting.

And now clubs north and south of the border are left wondering whether all their efforts at getting prepared in pre-season have been in vain as there seems little hope of getting things sorted before this weekend's fixtures.

Admittedly there is just one game scheduled in the men's programme, as the U-16 and U-18 provincials are taking place.

But that is a cross-border clash, while the women's have a full IHL programme which involves three north-south ties, one of them being Cork Harlequins who must make the long trip to Belfast Harlequins.

Now the Munster team may not know until late in the week whether to sort out travel arrangements or not, while their Belfast hosts will be left scratching their heads on whether to arrange for food and activities.

The impasse came as a result of the umpires' association losing patience with Hockey Ireland for not addressing a handful of issues which they have highlighted for several years.

But with Hockey Ireland suggesting that it's unconstitutional to back the IHUA's proposed €70 levy on IHL games and €55 on Irish cup games, and therefore clubs and stakeholders should be given the chance to discuss the issues at a special general meeting, it means it could be a couple of weeks before such a scenario finally takes place.

The IHUA, though, argue that there's nothing in the rules and regulations making it unconstitutional and are shocked at what is being seen as many as a lack of urgency by the governing body.

The impasse means that the IHUA declined to put forward any IHL appointments for week one of the programme which resulted in full-scale postponements, and it's becoming increasingly likely that more postponements are in the offing.

And that reflects badly on the sport which ironically is trying hard to lift its profile.

Provincial games, though, aren't affected and on the men's front the Kirk Cup and Linden Cup went ahead as normal.

Mossley's Jordan Robinson was top scorer of the day, crashing in four goals as the Newtownabbey team ran up a 6-1 success at Newry Olympic.

Kilkeel also had a comfortable win in what was their first competitive game on their new pitch, with Johnny Aiken, Luke Russell and David Finlay all on the mark in the 3-0 win over South Antrim.

Civil Service's Chris Barnes bagged himself a hat-trick for the second successive week as they beat North Down 3-1 at Comber, two of them from penalty corners.

In the Linden Cup, Ballynahinch crushed Cliftonville 7-2 with former Annadale star William Edgar scoring twice while 15-year-old Tom Orr scored as Raphoe beat Armagh 3-0.

Kirk Cup Pool A: Newry 1 (K McWilliams) Mossley 6 (J Robinson 4, S Clarke, J Cathcart); Kilkeel 3 (J Aiken, C Russell, D Finlay) South Antrim 0; Queen's 0 Harlequins 5 (M McKenna 2, N Anderson, C Lemon, L McClelland)

Kirk Cup Pool B: North Down 1 (A McKibben) Civil Service 3 (C Barnes 3)

Linden Cup: Ballynahinch 7 (W Edgar 2, A Millar 2, L Thomas 2, R Coffey) Cliftonville 2 (D Campbell, M Eakin); Raphoe 3 (T Orr, S Goudie, T Eaton) Armagh 0

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