Monkstown are bound for Barcelona in October for round one of an extensively rejigged Euro Hockey League following their superb performance at the recent Euro Hockey Club Trophy in tandem with Banbridge’s victory in the Challenge I in the Czech Republic.Ireland moved up to tenth in the nations’ rankings following the two clubs good performances, getting back into the top 12 on the EHL list after poor results last term saw Ireland drop out for the first time in the seven years since the inaugural EHL.
But for the eighth season of the elite competition, big changes are set to be introduced that will make it much tougher for Town to progress to the KO16 round.
This year, to contain the costs of the tournament, 12 sides have been given byes through to the second phase of the competition, leaving the other 12 entrants to play off in four groups of three with just a single side from each going through. Previously, there was eight groups of three with two sides advancing.
What makes it more difficult for Monkstown is that they will probably have to overcome a side from either the elite leagues of Netherlands (Bloemendaal), Germany (Rot-Weiss Koln), Spain (Atletic Terrassa) or Belgium (Daring) with their third ranked side thrown into the first round mix.
The second ranks from Poland, France, Russia and England will also be thrown into the mix, making it a very tough draw all told. It means that there will only be one round one event rather than the two that have been held for the past seven years.
In addition, due to a reduction in sponsorship money, the costs of the competition for Monkstown will be increased as the EHL’s contribution has been removed for round one sides though this may be reinstated for the KO16 which takes place next April.
Three Rock Rovers are likely to play in the Euro Hockey Club Champions Trophy, the second tier of the competition, next May.