Banbridge Head Coach Mark Tumilty has pleaded with clubs to vote yes to an All-Ireland League.
The Irish Hockey Association will host an EGM on Sunday 5 October to assess proposals of introducing a full season two-division Irish Hockey League to the men’s game with a full season in the Women’s IHL1 and an end of season tournament for the Women’s IHL2.
After seeing his side trounce Belfast Harlequins 14-0 on Saturday, Tumilty is adamant that a full IHL season is what’s needed to end such one-sided affairs.
“It has to be an All-Ireland League,” he said.
“I’m saying that from my point of view, from my players point of view and even from a supporter’s point of view. If you came to see Saturday’s game, 14-0, why would you come back?
“I know it’s maybe a selfish view and I know there are other issues there but Harlequins would be better playing a decent league without the top teams there. It doesn’t do them any good either.
“I’d rather have played Three Rock Rovers on Saturday, lost 2-1 and had a good game of hockey. I went home thinking what’s the point.
“That’s not a good advert for Ulster Hockey. That Harlequins team will be looking to finish fifth and get an All-Ireland place.
“It’s not as if they’re a bottom team. We were missing Eugene Magee, Hugh McShane, Dane Ward and Owen Magee was just back from injury too.
“It’s not like football. Warrenpoint are bottom of the Premiership but they still have a chance of beating any of the other teams. That’s not happening in hockey, or even close.”
Not everyone shares Tumilty’s view. Ulster Hockey have even requested their constituent clubs do not attend the meeting, instead wishing to send two Ulster delegates to reject the proposals on behalf of all Ulster clubs.
There are fears for the teams left behind along with worries that the travelling costs would cripple clubs and the changes would also have an affect on schools’ hockey.
However, the Bann coach thinks the changes would help player development and doesn’t share fears of difficulties for away fixtures.
“You could be in Dublin in no time,” he said. “We can leave at 11am to play a game in Dublin for 2.30pm no problem. It’s definitely easier than going to Raphoe.”
One thing Tumilty is certain of is that scorelines like the 14-0 victory at Havelock on Saturday will do little to improve the game in Ulster.
“If we had been ruthless, 20 goals was on, which is wrong,” he said. “I hate having to tell the lads to get back to the half-way line and go again when they’re scoring that many goals but that’s what we have to do. Ulster Hockey created that last season when they made goal difference the deciding factor and I tell you what, I’ll not be losing another league to Garvey on goal difference.”
The top tier of a full season IHL would include the top four teams from Ulster and Leinster, alongside the one from Munster and the tenth spot filled by the winners of a play-off between fifth place in Ulster and Leinster and second in Munster.
The second tier would be composed of the next four from Ulster and Leinster, one from Munster and another play-off winner.
Although frustrated at the ease of Saturday’s victory, Tumilty was at least pleased with his team’s professional display and held out special praise for one new signing as their quest for the Ulster League title continued in convincing style.
“I thought we played well,” he said.
“We had talked about being more consistent for longer periods so I was happy that we did that.
“There were some good individual performances. Stevie Dowds is scoring goals again and Neil Gilmore got another hat-trick. I’ve been really, really impressed with what he has delivered. He had a really big impact against Garvey and got a goal against them. He’s been really good so far.”
Next up for Banbridge is a home game against Newry in the Kirk Cup tomorrow evening (Tuesday - pass-back 7.45pm) before travelling to take on Mossley in the Ulster Premier League on Friday (pass-back 8.15pm).