The women’s EY Hockey League will get underway almost two months later than usual as Hockey Ireland hopes to maximise the chances of reaching the Olympic Games.
The competition is set for a November 9 start, one week after Ireland will – more than likely – host an Olympic qualifier series on November 2 and 3.In an email explaining the situation to the clubs, Hockey Ireland’s competition committee said: “This change reflects the commitment and opportunity to get the women to their first ever Olympics and the plan to keep the team centralised through the period after the Euro Nations and before the FIH Olympic [qualifying] matches.
“While this means there will be a later start, there is full commitment to the EYHL as the premier domestic competition.
“All competition rounds have been scheduled and agreed with HP to ensure no clash with HP camps /competitions ensuring our clubs, players are playing the competition at the highest level and spectators and sponsor alike can support the highest level competition.
“This is taking a similar approach with the majority of the top hockey leagues in Europe who also ensure a degree of flexibility around high performance as well.”
For the Olympic qualifiers preparation, selected senior women’s team players will be “contracted/employed” by Hockey Ireland.
The national body will maintain a defined squad for the duration of the season and club coaches will be kept abreast of which of their players are included on the “contracted player” list.
When a player is released from the “contracted player” list, this will be communicated to the player and club coach/manager. Typically the “contracted” squad will be communicated once per year.
During the preparation period for the Olympic qualifiers, there will be international test matches for Ireland’s women in both September and October.
In October, the Irish Senior Cup will be played out up to the semi-final stage while there is a facility for clubs – where agreement is in place – to bring league games forward should they be out of the cup.
The Irish Senior Cup draw will be made in August while there will be an EYHL clubs meeting on September 8 where clubs can make arrangements for October.
Contracted players will not be available for the Irish Senior Cup though a caveat is added that “positional considerations (goalkeepers etc) will be made within this.
In the lead-up to August’s Europeans, Ireland will play Scotland on July 13, 14 (4pm) and 16 at Stormont. The first and last of these games will be “behind closed doors”. At the same venue, they will play Italy twice – July 28 (3pm) for the public, July 30 behind closed doors.
They will play warm-up games in Antwerp against Belgium on August 7 and 9 while they also have a practice work-out against the Netherlands booked in.On the men’s side, the season will follow a more regular format with September 21 the first day of the EYHL campaign. Five rounds will be played before the Olympic qualifiers in early November.
High Performance senior men’s players will be unavailable for the Irish Senior Cup round two on October 26.
“Senior men’s players are also contracted to Hockey Ireland, but their funding model and availability is different to the senior women, meaning the frequency of national training and fixtures is limited.
“With this in mind, the men’s national coach does reserve the right to remove players from club involvements but, like with the senior women, this will be commuinicated in adavnce. As fewer Senior Men’ s players actually play their hockey in Ireland, the disruption this will cause will hopefully be minimal.
“Securing international fixtures in the era of the FIH Hockey Pro League is difficult and Hockey Ireland High Performance aims to not rearrange domestic club hockey dates based upon these difficulties.”
For the men, they are booked in for two practice matches in Scotland in Glasgow on July 27 and 29 before taking in a four nations tournament in Valencia, starting on August 1. It will feature England, Spain and Malaysia.
In the additional notes surrounding the calendar, Hockey Ireland add: “The dates for the EYHL have been agreed with High Performance and, at this stage, no conflicting High Performance session (training or match) will be scheduled to clash with any of the 18 rounds of EYHL.
“If an High Performance competitive test match series opportunity arises during the season and requires a previously agreed EYHL weekend, a suitable date for the re-scheduled EYHL program will be agreed between HP and the Irish Hockey League Working Group.
“Hockey Ireland National Head Coaches and Performance Director may instruct a High Performance “contracted” player and their club coach that the player cannot play on an EYHL scheduled date, due to individual health, injury or load management concerns.”
Locations and dates for FIH Olympic Qualification two match series will become apparent in early September.
** To see the full EYHL calendar for 2019/20, click here: https://sportlomo-userupload.s3.amazonaws.com/uploaded/galleries/8089_uploaded/bb7e3aa4512419839e811bfd032d803e551bdfbf.pdf