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Ulster hockey chiefs call for Irish League wrangle to end

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster Hockey's Management Board have issued a plea ahead of this evening's Annual General Meeting - they want their clubs to move on and stop re-arguing the Irish Hockey League issue.

The Board were disappointed at the fully-fledged IHL getting the go-ahead, and that their top four men's clubs (Banbridge, Lisnagarvey, Cookstown and Annadale) and top three women's clubs (Ards, Pegasus and Ulster Elks) then decided to join it despite the Ulster Hockey Special General Meeting in March voting against the idea.

But now two proposals in connection with the IHL have been put in front of this evening's AGM - the first from Garvey and Belfast Harlequins and the second from Banbridge and Ards - and this has disappointed the Board again, and to such an extent that they have asked clubs not to support them.

In their statement, the Board said: "It is time to move on and not continually re-argue the IHL issue. There is significant work to be addressed and to continually revisit this issue is now becoming a major distraction to the time available to deal with equally, and in some cases more important, issues for Ulster Hockey."

The first proposal is to the effect that all Ulster Hockey cup competitions involving Ulster Premier teams should also include the Ulster teams competing in the full-season Irish Hockey League.

And the second proposal is that all Ulster teams competing in the IHL should be able to register the same number of 1st XI players as per the Ulster Hockey Union requirements for 1st XIs competing in the Ulster Premier League.

The Board's argument against the proposals is that they have been given a clear mandate on how to move forward at the SGM "but it now seems some clubs are trying to re-argue the issue, giving rise to the suspicion that it is only for their own self-interest".

Their statement adds: "As a result of individual clubs coming to their decision to enter the IHL or not, they were clearly aware of the consequences following the SGM vote.

"Unfortunately it appears that not only do they want to play in the IHL but they wish the rest of Ulster Hockey to change its Competitions and History to meet their desires and needs, without taking cognisance of the impact that this will have."

With regard to Lisnagarvey's proposal about Ulster's IHL teams being allowed to play in Ulster's cup competitions, the Board's response is along the lines that they appear to want to have their cake and eat it.

"One of the key reasons put forward by Garvey and others in support of the IHL was that the Ulster Premier League no longer offered them a competitive enough environment.

"Yet the reality is that they, having strengthened their clubs by recruiting players, are wanting to take on these teams in the cups. Perhaps they are concerned by the lack of matches and the match calendar that they have now signed up for."

Yes, it's still evident that Ulster hockey remains divided and that this evening's AGM could be one of the most interesting meets in years.

Three Rock finished a disappointing fourth in the EuroHockey Club Championship Trophy yesterday, losing the bronze medal play-off 3-2 to Azerbaijan's Atasport.

Belfast Telegraph


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