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Top coaches hit out at hockey's disjointed conclusion to 19/20 season


Stephen Watt

As expected, there has been a mixed reaction to Hockey Ireland's strategies to determine various issues after the season was deemed to be concluded due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body have declared the top-flight EY Irish Hockey Leagues null and void while using a different approach for the domestic leagues across the island.

Promotion and relegation in Ulster and the other provinces will be decided by 'percentage equalisation' using the amount of points secured to games played.

Banbridge coach Gordon Cracknell was left frustrated, while his Annadale counterpart Richard Fairman admitted his team had made a "great escape" after being virtually certain to be relegated.

Cracknell said: "It's very disappointing given that we had only four games left to play and it seems Hockey Ireland have taken the easiest way out.

"One has to ask why the percentage equalisation approach was good enough for the regional leagues and not for the IHL."

Stephen Watt, coach of current Ulster Premiership champions Instonians, also feels that there is an anomaly in the different approaches to settling the various issues after his team were in title contention behind Cookstown, who look set to be crowned champions.

The Hockey Ireland statement said that the national leagues had been voided "as there are too many games left to play to determine a fair final ranking by mathematical or other method".

Watt said: "There were more matches to be played in the respective Ulster (men's and women's) Premierships than in either of the IHLs.

"Why then is it judged unfair to determine projected finishing positions in the IHL though fair to do likewise in the Ulster Premierships? The bottom IHL club, Annadale, have secured one point from a possible 36 and the club one place higher than them have accumulated 12 points from 36.

"It is judged unfair on Annadale to conclude they will be relegated yet it is deemed appropriate to decide mathematically who will win either Ulster Premiership when many sides could still have achieved that?

"If the season is null and void for the league with the least amount of fixtures to be played, why is it not appropriate, sensible, logical and understandable that that decision would apply to all leagues?"

Belfast Telegraph