Club season “finished” with key outcomes to be decided before April 12th

The 2019/20 club season has been deemed “finished” by Hockey Ireland with exactly how this affects the national and provincial leagues set to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Crucially, the confirmation did not declare the season void as yet with a competitions working group set to look into how best to treat each of the EYHL divisions and, subsequently, how the provincial leagues will be determined.

The group will consist of members of the Hockey Ireland board, their competitions committee and representatives from the four provinces who will consider how final league standings, promotion and relegation, and possible European spots for the 2020/21 season will be decided.

Those conclusions will be published by April 12th at the latest; the European spots are usually required to be confirmed for the EHF by June.

It will be a mind-boggling difficult task to find a one-size-fits-all solution as the EYHL’s regulations do not have a provision for an incomplete season.

For example, in the men’s EYHL, Lisnagarvey are well on course to be runaway winners with a five-point lead and two games in hand.

At the bottom, Annadale were 11 points adrift. In both cases, it might be reasonable to confirm those placings despite plenty of matches still to play.

Those would be the simpler issues to decide but – if no playoffs go ahead – who gets the otheer available European spot, usually confirmed at the Champions Trophy; currently, three points cover second to fourth with Monkstown having a game in hand.

Similarly, the relegation playoff spot was being tightly contested with Pembroke and YMCA – with a game less played – level on 12 points. How that would tie be broken and whether the playoff game could be played have been a source of online debate.

To that end, Jakim Bernsden’s has run the numbers with the stats showing how tight the margins are and the drawbacks in deciding anything on predicted outcomes.

Alternatively, some have suggested a consideration could be given to play off a mini-league in August or September to determine the key decisions.

Who gets promoted? Using the men’s example again, EYHL2 still had a round of group games left to play with only Cork C of I confirmed in the final four from which one side would be promoted and one would earn a battle with ninth place from the top tier.

The women’s EYHL was shaping up for a battle royal in the closing weeks with Loreto three points clear but with a game extra played than chasers Old Alex and Pegasus. Picking a basis for a winner and the two European places on offer from that trio would be hugely contentious.

EYHL2 is in a similar boat to the men’s competition with only Corinthian doing enough to reach the playoffs recording seven wins out of seven. Would that be deemed enough to be handed promotion?

Or would Hockey Ireland be open to expanding leagues, possibly implementing two groups, for next season to accommodate different scenarios?

All cases could lead to some serious lobbying from the respective provincial committees to push their clubs’ agendas with a wide array of different scenarios playing out.

The discussions may also, in any case, lead to a voided season.

For the provincial leagues, there are also decisions to be made whether to name champions and relegated teams and on what basis whether it be current standings; a points-per-game percentage; take the first half of the season’s points tally.

Plenty to mull over.

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