Club season in limbo as March 29 return looks unlikely

With Thursday night’s news that Irish Rugby has cancelled all their club competitions for the remainder of the season with immediate effect, it brought into focus the difficulties that face Hockey Ireland to try and complete the domestic season.

The women’s EYHL was shaping up to be the most exciting run-in since the tournament’s inception with the top four all harbouring hopes of taking the regular season crown and a European ticket.

The initial cessation of action due to the coronavirus pandemic is in place until March 29 but current outlook suggests that will be extended further.

It leaves the governing body in a tricky situation about what call to make and when. And should they call a halt to proceedings, what decision do they take when it comes to naming champions, who gets promoted and relegated, and possible European spots for the 2020/21 season.

UCD coach Miles Warren. Pic: Adrian Boehm

For example, UCD’s women have potentially nine games still on their agenda – four EYHL games, the Irish Senior Cup final, a Jacqui Potter Cup semi-final and possible final along with two possible ties in the EY Champions Trophy.

For coach Miles Warren – like many others – he says it leaves his squad in limbo about what to do next.

“At this point, we have just sent out a running plan and we will do a two-week running block for the next few weeks,” he told The Hook.

“Depending on what happens at the end of that, if schools are still out and sport has a chance to start, we will then start back hockey. There’s so much up in the air that no one really knows what is going to happen.

“It is frustrating because we have just started to build a bit of momentum and are playing good hockey and getting the results. I am talking purely hockey here and not comparing it to anything else outside which is far more serious.

“Hockey Ireland has a massive challenge like every other sporting body. They can put a plan in place but they may not be able to implement it in two weeks’ time if everyone gets told you can’t go back.

“We are relying on government decisions and so Hockey Ireland may have to make maybe one, two or three plans. In the worst-case scenario, the season gets called off.

“Being an amateur sport, how long can you tell players they have to be available? Can we extend the season? Maybe for a couple of weeks but it will have knock-on effects for everybody.

“These are all big games left. All of it depends on what decisions are made higher up which is out of Hockey Ireland’s hands.”

At this stage, Hockey Ireland continues to monitor the situation and so will wait to make a formal update.

The Leinster Hockey Association board, meanwhile, held a conference call this week and “the playing committees have been asked to assess where all competitions are at and look at options going forward. 

“However, any decisions will be in line with guidelines issued by the Government, HSE and Hockey Ireland.  The health and safety of all our members is our first priority.”

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