The passing of IHL option two has been met with approval at Banbridge Hockey Club after both Head Coach Mark Tumilty and the men’s first team players threw their support behind the proposals.
“I think it’s a big day for Irish hockey but there’s still a lot to be done,” said Tumilty after news broke on Sunday afternoon that the second proposal had been passed.
“We’ll have to work together as clubs, schools, provinces and Irish hockey to make sure it’s a success and to be sensible about it as well.
“For the good of developing a sport, making it more marketable and developing our players, it’s the only way to go.
Tumilty reckons the vote is not only a plus for the top teams on the island but also for the clubs who will be left behind in the provincial leagues.
“For the teams that remain in the Ulster League, it makes the league more competitive,” he said. “That changes their emphasis in training to becoming successful. You start to grow and develop your club with the chance of winning something.
“They will be playing all season looking to get into IHL2 and progressing from there.
“People say they’re not getting to play against the top players but my point is what good is that doing them?
“Being able to play against them and being competitive against them are different.
“For some of those teams, if they won the Ulster League next season, it could be the first trophy they’ve won for a long time. It would be a great celebration for them and would give the players more confidence. They would see that they can win games and it helps the coaches as well because they know they have a chance of winning every week.
“I think it’s great for the sport and hopefully it turns out like that but there are still some concerns and questions to be answered.”
Banbridge captain Eugene Magee is hoping the changes will ensure that hockey becomes a more attractive prospect for children accross the Ireland.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
“It’s a much more attractive league and for the players, this is what we want to play in.
“There was a survey released recently that said that 100,000 kids are playing hockey in the Republic of Ireland. This will raise the popularity of hockey and will give them a vision in mind of where they want to get to, like the way kids playing football see where they want to go.
“The sport needs this kind of thing to boost it but we can’t sit back now and think hockey is going to be the best sport in Ireland because we’ve got our new structure.
“It’s going to take a lot of work from now.”