** Additional reporting from Southern Fried Hockey’s Alan Good
Both Railway Union and Cork Harlequins have seen their expectations of top tier European club hockey go up in smoke this week, having now to settle for life in the second tier.
Following Euro victories from the likes of Loreto, Pegasus and Hermes in recent years and their own third place finish in 2011, IHL champions Railway looked set to be the benefactors from Ireland’s improved status as one of the top eight nations.
Last term, it featured 12 teams from eight nations but the new format allows only for eight entrants coming from six countries with Ireland one of the two nations to make way. Railway, as such, have been bumped back down to the secondary competition, a situation which coach Mick McKinnon felt should not have occurred.
He said on Twitter: “The EHF changing qualification criteria after the qualification period is poor form. It should have been done prior to last season or for 2014.”
There was similar frustration for Cork Harlequins as they thought their Irish Senior Cup brought an EHL place with it. But the final rankings for the current season, released today, saw Ireland slip from sixth to ninth in the nation’s list.
Their place was ultimately taken by Scotland who earned the same ranking points (14.625) as Ireland but leapfrogged them into eighth based on the goal difference of their European representatives, European Hockey Federation (EHF) competitions manager Dariusz Kurc told Southern Fried’s Alan Good this evening.
Controversially, these results were achieved by Kelburne in the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy — a tier below the EHL, where Ireland’s Banbridge and Cookstown competed last season.
Quins had recently returned to training of sorts with the EHL specifically in mind and sought sponsorship for the impending trip. With many Quins stalwarts, including captain Mark Black, set to put retirements on hold to play in the EHL, it remains to be seen whether the news will affect their decision.
In both instances, Irish Hockey Association high performance director Dave Passmore said the national body are “seeking clarification”.
Elsewhere, Pembroke have confirmed the appointments of Keith Crawford and Chris Tyrrell as their new ladies first team coaches for the 2012/13 season. The pair continue their partnership having previously worked together with the Leinster U-21 and Junior Interpro teams, winning out in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
They also achieved back-to-back promotions with the Trinity ladies second eleven, lifting them up to division two, as well as reaching the Irish Junior Cup semi-final. Mick O’Connor will continue in his position as second team coach at the club.