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Ulster Hockey chiefs rewrite rules to end scourge of eligibility issues


By Graham Hamilton

Ulster Hockey has undertaken to rewrite one of their rules for next season to ensure there is no repetition of the eligibility problem that has plagued them over the past few months.

The rule in question states a player may not play for two clubs in any non-league competition, which effectively means a transferred player may not play in a second knock-out competition if he has already played in a different one for his original club.

That's in line with Hockey Ireland's eligibility rules, which the Ulster Branch follow, although differing somewhat from football, for example when a player is only cup-tied if he previously featured in the same competition.

The issue came to light when three players - the Hamill brothers, Philip and Stephen, and Cody Walker, who all transferred from Mossley - were not permitted to play in the Linden Cup final with their new club Bangor.

On appeal to Ulster Hockey's Independent Appeals Tribunal, they were informed that they had been successful.

But that was overturned by the Branch when it became clear that the tribunal did not process the appeal correctly.

The ruling doesn't only affect the Bangor trio - it also applies to other players, men and women, who transferred after playing in a cup competition for their previous club.

The Ulster Hockey statement explains: "The Appeals Tribunal's decision was to uphold the Bangor appeal. Unfortunately it was later determined it did not process it correctly as per the constitution and therefore the decision was declared null and void.

"Ulster Hockey has apologised to Bangor, returned the £150 fee and has advised them that the wording will be reviewed during the close season, as it can't be changed mid-season."

Bangor president Pete Snodden said that they had followed all the appeal procedures in support of their players but, although it is not a good rule, it now has to be accepted and a line drawn under it.

Meanwhile Ireland men are en route to Malaysia for what will be a difficult series.

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup sees the Irish take on four of the world's top seven and the hosts in eight days.

And for Paul Gleghorne it means moving closer to his 200th cap.

The Green Machine begin against Malaysia on Saturday (12.30pm UK time) and follow it up with games against World League champions Argentina on Sunday (10am), current Azlan champions England on Tuesday, March 6 (8am), World No.1 Australia on Wednesday, March 7 (8.05am), and Asian champions India on Friday, March 9 (10.05am), and finally the classification game on Saturday, March 10.

Altogether, there are nine Ulster lads in the 18-strong squad - Jonathan Bell, Paul Gleghorne, Sean Murray, Michael Robson, Eugene Magee, John McKee, Matthew Bell, Peter Caruth and Chris Cargo - while there are two more in the England squad, Ian Sloan and Mark Gleghorne.

There is no EY Irish Hockey League action this week due to international commitments, but there is a full Ulster Premier League schedule as well as the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals.

Instonians and Kilkeel have the chance to close in on leaders Bangor when they host Mossley and Belfast Harlequins respectively.

Bangor make the long trip to Bandon in west Cork with a place in the Irish Hockey Trophy final at stake, while Raphoe face Portrane in Donegal in the other semi.

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