Umpires set to resume IHL action next week
The impasse between umpires and the sport's governing body, which has prevented the start of the marquee all-Ireland programme for a fortnight, is finally about to end.
The Irish Hockey Umpires Association have agreed that, in the best interests of the sport, they will make themselves available from next weekend for Irish Hockey League games.
"We are satisfied with progress that has been made and although all issues haven't been resolved, hopefully those can be ironed out at the next meeting on October 1," said IHUA chairman Warren McCully.
Earlier the IHUA hit out at the Irish Hockey League's Working Group over a communication which they sent out following the conference in midweek which had been arranged to thrash out matters.
They said the communication "distorted the facts, was a breach of trust and did not accurately reflect what was agreed at the conference call."
And in a statement they added: "The communication from the IHL working group, in the view of the IHUA executive, was an attempt to create division within the membership of IHUA and also Hockey Ireland, particularly the IHL teams.
"It is the view of the IHUA that the conference call was a productive one and significant progress was made.
"However, the IHL Working Group's intervention was very damaging and the content of the communication could have harmed the trust that appeared to exist as a result of the conference call.
"Furthermore, it had the potential to reverse the good work done by IHUA representatives and the Board of Hockey Ireland to resolve matters."
However, the umpires showed they were committed to seeking a resolution with the Board of Hockey Ireland and the resumption of hockey at national level as soon as possible and they clarified the situation yesterday and offered to resume appointments next week.
The impasse came as a result of little progress being made on a number of issues highlighted by the IHUA over the past few years, in particular the small remuneration for IHL umpires and the non-implementation of the four-year Umpires Plan.
The umpires suggested a levy of €70 per team per IHL game, and €55 for other Irish cup competitions, to cover expenses, the administration of appointments, and the recruitment and the development of new umpires.
Although Hockey Ireland initially felt a Special General Meeting was needed to sort out these matters, a conference call was finally set up and it seems agreement was reached on the levy for IHL games, but a further meeting on October 1 was suggested to resolve the other issues.
The IHUA, though, declined to put forward appointments for this weekend until the other issues were sorted, as they have all their members to consider, not only those at IHL level.
And so the second week of IHL games, unfortunately, had to be postponed.
There is still more talking to be done but now we will finally get the all-Ireland programme up and running next week.
Meanwhile both the Ulster Under 16s and Under 18s have started well in their inter-provincial tournaments at Three Rock in Dublin.
The U16s looked in trouble when they trailed to goals from Ben Hickmott and Sam Walker.
But then Troy Chambers (Wallace High) and Patrick Rose (Sullivan Upper) managed to pull things level, with a penalty corner and a sublime goal on the reverse respectively. And Chambers went on to wrap up a tremendous comeback with a last minute penalty corner winner.
The Under 18s, though, had to settle for a 2-2 draw despite taking the lead twice in the game, but the share of the spoils keeps them firmly in the frame.
Harry Morris (Sullivan Upper) gave them the lead only for a Hugo Burns penalty stroke to level affairs.
And then Jack Haycock (Cookstown High) restored the lead only for Alistair Empey to equalise just before the half-time hooter.
Both the U16s and U18s play Munster today (10am and 12pm respectively) as well as Leinster for the second time (2pm and 4pm).
And both then complete their programmes with their second games against Munster tomorrow (10am and 12pm).