Clubs say yes to All Ireland League

Banbridge and Garvey could well be going head to head in a full-season IHL starting next year.
Banbridge and Garvey could well be going head to head in a full-season IHL starting next year.

Banbridge Hockey Club men’s first team will, in all likelihood, be playing in a All Ireland League next season.

IHL Option Two was passed at Sunday’s Irish Hockey Association EGM at the Stillorgan Hotel, Dublin, meaning the top four or five teams in the this season’s Ulster League will be plucked out of the province, into IHL Division One. The top teams from next season’s new-look Ulster Premier League will go into IHL2, where the winning team will go into the following campaign’s full IHL season at the expense of the bottom placed side, which will drop back into its provincial league.

Banbridge Head of Hockey Douglas Anderson was at the vote, at which an overwhelming majority of 87.8% voted for the second proposal, which needed 75% to pass.

“There was a recognition in the room that, to improve the game and the product, there would have to be change,” said Anderson. “It’s hoped that the All Ireland League will bring about that change and allow for more competitive games.

“I think people felt it was more of a compromise in that it only took the top four teams out of the Ulster League and the Leinster League.

“There are still some questions that are still unanswered and there was nothing came out that hadn’t already been debated. With change, there are always uncertainties. This is just the first step of it coming to fruition. There will still be a lot of debate and there needs to be clarity on a few issues.

“They did set out a timescale. There will be another meeting to discuss things in December and hopefully something will be in stone come January.”

Ulster Hockey had asked Ulster clubs not to attend the meeting, instead sending their own representatives to relay the clubs’ concerns. With a substantial number following those requests, it appears the branch’s tactics may actually have shot their own cause, to reject these particular IHL proposals, in the foot.

Had another eight clubs turned up and voted no, the proposal would not have gone through.

However, Ulster Hockey’s Chief Executive, Angela Platt said on Twitter that Ulster Hockey “was unaware of 75% rule, IHA not confirming that until the start of the EGM despite being asked.”

“The (Ulster Hockey) Board will take time to consider the way forward, we will hold a meeting and the clubs will be an important part of the process - that is all I can say at the moment,” Angela said after the vote.