The pools for the inaugural Irish Hockey League Division 2 have been laid out as the new competition, designed to bridge the gap between the provincial and EY Hockey Leagues.
On the women’s side, Trinity – relegated via a playoff against Old Alex – have been grouped with Corinthian, Queen’s University, Munster champions UCC and Greenfields.
Pool B features Ulster Premier winners Lurgan, Dungannon, the relegated Monkstown, Catholic Institute and Connacht winners NUIG.
The sides will play each other on a home and away, round-robin basis in the group stages with the first series set to be played by September 29. The top two from each group advances to the end of season playoffs for a shot at promotion to the EYHL on April 26 and 27.
IHL2 is in addition to the provincial leagues – which now primarily act as a qualifier for IHL2 – and so the competition will add eight to ten games to their seasons.
As such, given the fixture pile-up on account of the weather last term, margins are especially tight, particularly for the 10-team Leinster league and the Ulster Premier which had 11 teams last season, requiring Lurgan to play 10 matches in 32 days.
On the men’s side, Leinster sides Railway Union and UCD lock horns in Pool A where Bangor and Bandon renew rivalries having met twice last season in national semi-finals.
Pool B sees Ulster treble winners Kilkeel involved. They had turned down a shot at promotion via the playoffs last season but are keen to try their hand via this method against Instonians, Corinthian and UCC.
Their first series of games is due to be played by mid-October with one a month – bar January – for the six months up to April before the top two advance to the promotion playoffs.
Hockey Ireland have also confirmed September 22 as the return date for the men’s EY Hockey League while the women’s competition is back on September 29.
There is a winter break from the competition this term, too, with a break for the men from November 17, 2018 up to February 2, 2019. The women break from December 1 after the second round of the Irish Senior Cup until January 27 for the quarter-finals of the cup.
In Leinster, men’s Division One features ten teams again with Railway Union back in the province, replacing the promoted YMCA while Portrane’s revival sees them move up, taking the place of Weston who move down to Division Two.
Women’s IHL2 groups
Pool A: Trinity, Corinthian, Queens, UCC, Greenfields
Pool B: Lurgan, Dungannon, Monkstown, Catholic Institute, NUIG
Men’s IHL2 groups
Pool A: Railway Union, UCD, Bangor, Bandon
Pool B: Kilkeel, Instonians, Corinthian, UCC