IHL Division 2 to be introduced in 2018/19 season

Hockey Ireland has announced that a second division of the Irish Hockey League will be introduced in the 2018/19, running in conjunction with the provincial leagues.

The introduction comes following an open forum – conducted via The Hook in March – from the Irish Hockey League Working Group. The working group set up a review panel to consider the feedback which was subsequently presented to the constituent branches and a number of clubs.

Lurgan and Old Alex in EYHL playoff action in April. Pic: Adrian Boehm

The review panel recommended an IHL Division 2 starting in 2018/19, a recommendation approved by the Hockey Ireland board in early July.

The new second tier will run in parallel to the provincial league and clubs in IHL Division 2 will participate in both with IHL games interspersed throughout the season.

It will feature two groups of four on the men’s side and two groups of five on the women’s side. Each group will play each other in a home and away, round-robin format, progressing to end of season playoffs.

Speaking about the introduction of the new division, Inez Cooper, Chair of the IHL Working Group, said: “The Panel discussed a number of issues identified from the Open Forum, especially in relation to addressing potential growth in the gap between the EYHL and provincial league club sides.

“The Panel was of the view that the introduction of a Division 2 would address the main concerns, namely better preparation of provincial league clubs for playing in the EYHL through exposure to a sufficient level of competitive matches throughout the season; help ambitious clubs with player retention/migration as well as help in finding new sponsors who want to invest in their growth story and, finally, to help demoted clubs bridge back into the EYHL quickly.”

Cooper thanked the representatives from the branches and clubs involved in the Panel for giving their time and input to the meeting to work on a recommendation for the board.

** The full, updated rules for the Irish Hockey League can be viewed at this link; the relevant sections for the 2017/18 season for the provincial playoffs can be seen below in section 5.4 and the new IHL Division 2 can be seen in 5.5

5.4. EYHL Provincial Play-offs qualification (2017/18)
• Qualification for the EYHL Provincial Play-offs is based on placing position in the provincial league in the current season. Clubs earn the right to compete in the EYHL Provincial Play-offs based on their finishing position within their provincial league feeder competition as follows:
– Men: Ulster 1/2/3; Leinster 1/2/3; Munster 1/2
– Women: Ulster 1/2/3; Leinster 1/2/3; Munster 1/2; Connacht 1
• All clubs who qualify for the EYHL Provincial Play-offs must confirm their participation by the due date requested.
• If a club is unable/unwilling to take up its qualifying place in the EYHL, a further invite will be offered to the next highest finishing club from that province to a maximum of one further invitation per province.
• If a qualifying club declines to take up its qualifying place and there is another lower qualifier(s) from the same province, then the clubs ‘shuffle up’ in position to leave any gap(s) in the lowest qualifying position(s).
• If the competition club quota is not achieved, then it is a decision of the IHL Sub Working Group as to how the competition will be run.

5.5. IHL Division 2 (season 2018/19 onwards)
• The clubs will be split into two pools of four (men) /five (women), playing each other on a home and away basis on the dates specified by the IHL Sub Working Group.
• The provincial leagues will be structured /scheduled in parallel to the IHL Division 2 to ensure the IHL Division 2 can be spread throughout the season and completed in parallel to provincial leagues.
• The top 2 finishing clubs in each pool will qualify for the IHL Division 2 playoff Finals weekend. First finisher will play second finisher in the other group.
• The winner of the IHL Division 2 playoff Final will be promoted to EYHL in the following season.
• The Runner Up will play the 9th place finisher in EYHL to decide who will play in EYHL in the following season.
• Each year IHL Division 2 will be ‘re-constituted’ based on finishing position in the provincial leagues and the EYHL in the previous season. The number of clubs from each province is as per below – Provincial Allocation / Qualification.
• In this transition season in advance of the start of IHL Division 2 (2017/18), provincial league clubs are competing within their provincial league for BOTH a place in the EYHL Provincial Play-offs (to ultimately achieve EYHL status) and a place in IHL Division 2 in the following season. Provincial Allocation / Qualification
• Each province has a number of allocations for IHL Division 2 as follows:
– Men: Ulster 1 / 2 / 3; Leinster 1 / 2 / 3; Munster 1 / 2
– Women: Ulster 1 / 2 / 3; Leinster 1 / 2 / 3; Munster 1 / 2; Connacht 1 / 2
• Clubs fill the provincial allocations when demoted from EYHL or based on their placing position in the provincial league in the current season.
• Irrespective of the number of allocations per province to IHL Division 2, only demoted EYHL clubs and the provincial league winner are guaranteed a place in IHL Division 2 in the following season.
• Where a club is demoted from EYHL, they will be allocated the highest ranking within their province for consideration for IHL Division 2 in the following season. Where 2 clubs from the same province are demoted from EYHL, then the 9th place finisher will hold the highest provincial ranking.
• These Regulations will be updated in advance of the start of the season in which either there are 2 Munster or 2 Connacht clubs in EYHL to cover the impact to IHL Division 2 in the following season were either the 2 Munster clubs or 2 Connacht clubs to be demoted.
• All clubs who qualify for the IHL must confirm their participation by the due date requested.
• If a club is unable/un-willing to take up its qualifying place in the IHL a further invite will be offered to the next highest finishing club from that province to, a maximum of one further invitation per province.
• If a qualifying club declines to take up its qualifying place and there is another lower qualifier(s) from the same province, then the clubs ‘shuffle up’ in position to leave any gap(s) in the lowest qualifying position(s).
• If the competition club quota is not achieved, then it is a decision of the IHL Sub Working Group as to how the competition will be run.

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