Crawford Group going into administration has led to the switch of the EY Champions Trophy from Banbridge’s Havelock Park to Grange Road just three weeks ahead of the annual finals weekend.
Crawfords had been contracted to replace the pitch at Havelock Park with work getting underway in early March with plans to be ready to raise the curtain on the new turf on May 5.
But the group – who were also building the Lucan Harriers athletics track adjacent to Weston’s hockey pitch – have stopped work with immediate effect.
It means Bann have no chance of getting the pitch being completed in time and left EY Hockey League working group seeking an alternative earlier this week.
Given the proximity to the tournament date, the working group took the decision that Hockey Ireland would take over the hosting of the event. Usually for finals weekend, it is the club who runs the hosting.
“The key decision made was that it would be very difficult for any club to deliver the number of volunteers required to host at late notice and over a bank holiday weekend and therefore Hockey Ireland has taken over the hosting of the EYHL Finals this year.”
UCD – Hockey Ireland’s own venue – is not currently playable due to preparatory work for the pitch replacement making it unsuitable for the event. As such, the working group contacted Three Rock Rovers who hosted in 2017.
“Three Rock Rovers are in a position to make their facility available to Hockey Ireland as the backup. As you can appreciate, speed of confirmation of a replacement venue was also a factor to avoid difficulties and/or costs for the participating clubs, umpires and officials.
“Hockey Ireland and the IHL WG are now in the process of sourcing the volunteers to help run this event as well as taking on a number of other logistics.”
For a number of clubs who are already confirmed in the playoffs with a number of games to go, the provincial change means a likely swift adaptation of plans with potential hotel options to be considered and so forth.
On the men’s side of things, Glenanne, Three Rock and Lisnagarvey assured of their places in the final four with Monkstown, Banbridge and Pembroke battling for the final spot.
Town remain in fourth but lost their back-match on Tuesday evening to Three Rock Rovers to a John Mullins rebound in the second quarter.
It sees them on 23 points with the hardest of this weekend’s games, away to Glenanne. Pembroke on 21 and Bann on 20, both with games in hand.
The former have games against the bottom three remaining, all at home. They face Railway on Saturday before hosting Cookstown on Sunday; wins over the bottom two would make them very much the side in pole position.
Bann face Cookstown on Saturday before another Ulster derby in midweek against Lisnagarvey.
All of this intertwines with the battle at the bottom. Cookstown’s win over Cork C of I last time out has given them a big boost in avoiding the bottom rung, a two-point buffer to Railway and a game in hand.
Indeed, a win for the Co Tyrone side on Saturday against Bann could put them back in the frame to avoid yet another relegation/promotion playoff game for a third successive year.
On the women’s competition, UCD will be crowned champions barring a first defeat since September when they meet Ards at Londonderry Park, formally seeing off Cork Harlequins’ challenge.
For the students, it would be another big moment in their season having already retained the Irish Senior Cup. The league win would guarantee a return to Europe for 2019.
To that end, they got a big boost with Arena Kitchens – a premier Dublin-based kitchen design studio, with Docklands and Sandyford showrooms – sponsoring their trip next month to Surbiton to face AH&BC Amsterdam with €5,000 worth of support.
Stephen Dale’s Quins have a double-weekend with Loreto visiting Farmer’s Cross on Saturday and relegation threatened Trinity arriving on Sunday.
It will be Trinity’s second game of the weekend with their first one certainly their bigger focus. If the students draw or better against Hermes-Monkstown on Saturday, they will relegate last year’s national finalists who have endured a rough season.
As for the playoff picture, UCD and Cork Harlequins are confirmed while Pegasus need one point from their last four games – played in an eight-day period – to officially stamp their ticket.
Railway Union and Loreto are in almost a direct battle for the final playoff spot. It makes the former’s derby date with Pembroke all important on Saturday.
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Annadale v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Strathearn School; Cookstown v Banbridge, 2.30pm, Steelweld Park; Cork C of I v Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Garryduff; Glenanne v Monkstown, 3pm, St Andrews College; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, 2pm, Park Avenue
Sunday: Pembroke v Cookstown, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue.
Munster McLean Cup – Final: Ashton B v Limerick B, 1.45pm, Garryduff.
Leinster Cup finals
Intermediate Cup: North Kildare v Pembroke IV, 2pm
Junior Cup final: Kilkenny II v Monkstown V, 1pm
Railway Cup final: Three Rock Rovers II v Monkstown II, 2pm
Minor Cup final: Wicklow III v Bray II, 3pm
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Ards v University College Dublin, 2.30pm, Londonderry Park; Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, 2.30pm, Deramore Park; Cork Harlequins v Loreto, 2.30pm, Farmers’ Cross; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, 4pm, Park Avenue; Trinity v Monkstown, 12.30pm, Santry Avenue
Sunday: Cork Harlequins v Trinity, 2.30pm, Farmers’ Cross.
Leinster Cup finals (all at Grange Road)
Division 3-4 Cup: Corinthian II v Muckross II, 12pm
Division 5-6 Cup: Avoca III v Kilkenny, 3pm
Division 7-8 Cup: Muckross IV v Newbridge, 4pm
LHA Trophy: Loreto V v Pembroke VII, 4pm
Division 9-10 Cup: Bray III v Three Rock Rovers III, 12pm
Division 11-12 Cup: Genesis VII v Portrane, 11.30am
Munster Division 2 Cup – Final: Cork Church of Ireland 2 v Cork Harlequins 2, Garryduff, 11.45am.