Ulster Hockey to allow IHL clubs back into provincial cups in policy u-turn
Ulster Hockey are ready to fall in line with the other provinces and allow their Irish Hockey League clubs back into the provincial cup competitions.
A Special General Meeting has been called for December 12 to rescind the motion passed back in March 2015 and instead give the Management Board the mandate to move forward in relation to the administration of the Irish Hockey League and the Ulster competitions.
The new second tier of the IHL is due to start next season, effectively meaning that more Ulster teams will be playing in all-Ireland competitions, and as such that would leave too many exempt from the major knockout cups.
The main motion has six parts to it, but the one with particular interest will permit all affiliated clubs - including those who choose to enter the IHL and the IHL2 - entry to the cup and league competitions.
This year, for example, the men's teams from Lisnagarvey, Banbridge, Cookstown and Annadale, and the women's teams from Pegasus, Ards and Belfast Harlequins, were not allowed into the Kirk Cup and Ulster Shield respectively.
But if the motion is passed, then Ulster will fall in line with the other provincial branches who already permit their IHL teams into the provincial knockout competitions.
Other parts of the motion include giving Ulster clubs the right to accept or decline any invitation to enter the IHL or IHL2, and setting player registration requirements which permit IHL and IHL2 registered players to be eligible for all Ulster competitions.
Overall, it's a prickly issue - there are many who would welcome the return of the big guns for the knockout cups.
But there are others who feel that the clubs who joined the IHL made their bed and should continue to lie in it by remaining out of the knockout cups.
The SGM will be held at Deramore on December 12 and clubs should nominate their delegates as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the IHL returns to action this Saturday following last weekend's Irish Senior Cup, and the match of the day is the meeting of the two unbeaten teams, leaders Glenanne and Lisnagarvey.
The Dubliners have been squeezing through most games by the odd goal - five out of their seven to date - but represent a threat with internationals like Shane O'Donoghue and keeper Iain Walker, as well as the experienced Joe Brennan and Shannon Boucher.
Garvey will travel without defender James Lorimer after he picked up a back injury with the Irish squad out in the Netherlands last week.
He becomes the fourth defender from the first-team squad to be sidelined this season, with Paul Gleghorne now back in action, Jonathan Bell hopefully ready to resume and Steven Arbuthnot finally back in training.
Garvey skipper Daniel Buser said: "We're strong in the defensive department so have been able to manage quite well, but the sooner everyone returns the better it will be."
Banbridge head to the deep south to take on Cork C of I and are hoping to end a bad run of defeats which saw them drop into the bottom three against all the odds.
Sunday's games see Annadale take on bottom club Railway Union, and Cookstown, after an enforced rest last week, host Monkstown.
The two big games in the Ulster Premier League see leaders Bangor take on Belfast Harlequins and Mossley host Instonians.
Kilkeel's game at Cliftonville takes place at CIYMS this evening.