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Ulster Hockey set for restructure to help end double figure mismatches


John Metcalfe

Ulster Hockey is to seek the views of its constituent clubs with the likelihood of a change in the current league structures which could be implemented from next season.

The Premier League currently consists of 12 clubs and the Intermediate League has 10, having originally had 11 before Ballymena withdrew after being unable to fulfil five fixtures due to a player shortage.

Among the main reasons for the proposed restructuring has been the number of mismatches, especially in the second tier.

Belfast Harlequins, for example, who were relegated from the top-flight last season, have scored 81 goals in eight Intermediate League games to date, beating Armagh 11-0 on Saturday after crushing a nine-man Down team 18-0 a fortnight earlier.

It's understood one of the proposals being put to clubs is a three-tier system which would mean three leagues of eight teams or a similar number.

Harlequins captain John Metcalfe says his team's priority is to get back into the Ulster Premier League, although if a three-tier format were to be introduced they would find themselves in the middle group and not the top.

He said: "We would be extremely disappointed if there was some form of restructuring that would mean that even if we won the Intermediate League, we wouldn't be promoted to the Premier."

Instonians captain William Robinson is in favour of a new format.

He stated: "I agree that there needs to be a restructuring - not just from a mismatch point of view but from a fixture congestion perspective with a 12-team Premier and 22 matches per season."

On Saturday, Robinson's team stayed a point clear at the top of the Premier League after David Arneill and Stephen Kelso each scored twice in a 5-1 win over North Down in Comber.

Kilkeel, who have two games in hand, are a point behind after a 3-1 win over South Antrim while Cookstown, who have played a game fewer, crushed Newry 7-1 to also maintain their 100% record.

Results: Ulster Premier: Cookstown 7 Newry 1; Kilkeel 3 South Antrim 1; Mossley 1 Portadown 1; North Down 1 Instonians 5; Raphoe 2 Queen's 1. Intermediate League: Armagh 0 Belfast Harlequins 11; Saintfield 0 CI 9; Parkview 4 Down 0. Ulster Indoor Championship: Queen's 3 Banbridge 7; Cookstown 4 Queen's 2; Cookstown 1 Banbridge 1 (Banbridge qualify for All-Ireland Championship).

Belfast Telegraph