Irish hockey’s most exciting leap forward comes to fruition this season with the inauguration of the first ever Irish Hockey League.
Over the course of five group matches and subsequent play-off stages, Ireland’s elite players will get to compete at a higher level on a more regular basis while it is hoped that the clubs can help present the game in the best manner possible.
The new league will adopt a similar format to the Eurohockey League (EHL), with games played in quarters of 17-and-a-half minutes.
Three points will be awarded for a win and two for a draw, while there also be rugby-style bonus point incentives to encourage attacking hockey. Teams will earn an extra point for winning by two goals or more, while teams losing by less than two will earn a bonus point in defeat.
A number of measures have been agreed between the clubs to make the league a more polished spectacle. These include corporate lunches, underage matches before and after games and half-time skills competitions.
All clubs must provide ballboys, a public address system and scoreboards, while visiting clubs are being asked to stay overnight, where possible, to support their hosts.
The IHL tips off on October 18 with Irish champions Three Rock facing their ISC conquerors Monkstown in the first match of the men’s competition Pembroke host Cork Harlequins in an early evening match at Serpentine Avenue.
That comes hot on the heals of Pembroke’s opener with Armagh earlier in the day while UCD face Hermes on Sunday 19.
Irish Hockey League Fixtures 2008/09
Saturday October 18
Men Pool A: Instonians vs Cookstown (5.30pm), Pembroke Wanderers vs Cork Harlequins (5pm).
Pool B: Three Rock Rovers vs Monkstown (3.30pm), Banbridge vs Lisnagarvey (7pm), Cork Church of Ireland vs Fingal (4pm).
Women Pool A: Cork C of I vs Randalstown (2pm).
Pool B: Ballymoney vs Cork Harlequins (2.30pm), Pembroke Wanderers vs Armagh (2.30pm).
Sunday October 19
Men Pool A: Annadale vs Glenanne (2pm).WomenPool A: Pegasus vs Railway Union (3.30pm), Loreto vs Belfast Harlequins (3pm).
Pool B: UCD vs Hermes (2pm).
Saturday November 29
MenPool A: Cookstown vs Annadale (6pm); Cork Harlequins vs Glenanne (3pm); Instonians vs Pembroke Wanderers (6pm).
Pool B: Fingal vs Three Rock Rovers (2.30pm); Banbridge vs Cork C of I (5pm); Monkstown vs Lisnagarvey (4pm).
Women Pool A: Belfast Harlequins vs Cork C of I (2.30pm); Railway Union vs Randalstown (6pm).
Pool B: Armagh vs Hermes (2.30pm), UCD vs Ballymoney (4pm), Cork Harlequins vs Pembroke Wanderers (1pm).
Sunday November 30
WomenPool A: Loreto vs Pegasus (3pm).
Saturday January 31
Pool B: Lisnagarvey vs Three Rock Rovers (5pm), Fingal vs Banbridge (2.30pm), Cork C of I vs Monkstown (4pm).
Women Pool A: Pegasus vs Randalstown (2.30pm); Cork C of I vs Loreto (2pm), Railway Union vs Belfast Harlequins (6pm).
Pool B: Hermes vs Pembroke Wanderers (2pm); Ballymoney vs Armagh (3pm); Cork Harlequins vs UCD (3pm).
Sunday February 1
Men Pool A: Glenanne vs Instonians (3pm).
Saturday March 7
Men Pool A: Cookstown vs Cork Harlequins (2.30pm); Pembroke Wanderers vs Glenanne (2.30pm); Annadale vs Instonians (2pm).
Pool B: Three Rock Rovers vs Banbridge (3.30pm).
Women Pool A: Cork C of I vs Railway Union (2pm); Randalstown vs Loreto (4pm).
Pool B: Hermes vs Cork Harlequins (2pm); Ballymoney vs Pembroke Wanderers (1.30pm); Armagh vs UCD (2.30pm).
Sunday March 8
MenPool B: Cork C of I vs Lisnagarvey (1pm); Monkstown vs Fingal (1pm).
Women Pool A: Belfast Harlequins vs Pegasus (2.30pm).
Saturday April 4
Men Pool A: Cork Harlequins vs Instonians (3pm); Pembroke Wanderers vs Annadale (2.30pm).
Pool B: Three Rock Rovers vs Cork C of I (3.30pm); Banbridge vs Monkstown (7pm); Lisnagarvey vs Fingal (5pm).
Women Pool A: Pegasus vs Cork C of I (2.30pm); Railway Union vs Loreto (6pm); Randalstown vs Belfast Harlequins (2.30pm).
Pool B: Hermes vs Ballymoney (3pm); Cork Harlequins vs Armagh (1pm); Pembroke Wanderers vs UCD (6pm).
Sunday April 5
Men Pool A: Glenanne vs Cookstown (3pm).