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Chiefs should try to complete leagues: Bell



Too hasty: Jonny Bell says the HI decision was premature

Too hasty: Jonny Bell says the HI decision was premature

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Too hasty: Jonny Bell says the HI decision was premature

Lisnagarvey and Ireland player Jonny Bell believes Hockey Ireland have acted prematurely in ending the local and national league seasons.​

The sport's governing body, after consulting provincial branches, took the decision last week and will explore alternative ways of deciding issues, including promotion and relegation.​

So, while the competitions, including the top-flight Irish Hockey League, haven't been declared null and void, it's understood the current placings will be used to determine the various finishing positions.

That is likely to be based on some form of mathematical formula, including points won and games played, although other alternatives are not, in theory, off the table.​ When the leagues were stopped, Garvey were five points clear at the top of the Irish Hockey League standings.​

Bell said: "Obviously there is a mass hysteria at the minute with the coronavirus pandemic - and rightly so, it's a very concerning situation - but I didn't think there was a need to make a call so soon.

"Okay it's March now, the (new) season doesn't need to kick-off until November so that gives us the chance to complete the leagues properly. ​

"We were just getting to the business end of the season, the run-in that everybody gets excited about - the clubs, sponsors, players - and we should give it every chance to be completed.

"Ultimately we have seven games left which is more than other teams but those could be played in three weeks with a double-header weekend, midweek games and then the play-offs followed by the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals and finals."​

Banbridge coach Gordon Cracknell agrees with Bell that the decision to call time on the IHL and other leagues across the island was premature.​

He said: "The call was made too soon, in my opinion, and a further suspension should have been introduced and then we could have at least tried to finish this season's league.

"I think the idea of awaiting a possible resumption date would have been worth exploring as part of a graduated response but now it's a recipe for controversy and discord."

Greg Thompson, coach of IHL women's champions Pegasus, was also disappointed.

He said: "While recognising these are very tough decisions, personally I don't think relegation and promotion should be decided in a boardroom."

Belfast Harlequins ladies, who could well be relegated from the national league when the decisions are announced next month, are more phlegmatic in their position.

Team manager Roisin Walsh stated: "While the Hockey Ireland statement is confusing because it doesn't give any answers, our view is that there is no point in speculating."

Belfast Telegraph