Interprovincials need change of format


THE youth, under-21 and senior interprovincial championships - assuming that they will generally be held in more temperate weather than has been experienced of late - badly need a change of format to make a more balanced and practical use of players' time and resources.

A return to the involvement of a fourth team, say a Rest of Ireland squad to keep Leinster, Ulster and Munster fully occupied, seems a priority. Then, ideally, each side would play twice on Saturday, using a fair amount of everyone's stamina, before completing the programme with a match each on Sunday.

On sober reflection, the scoreless draw between Leinster and Munster in the senior tournament at Blaris last weekend lured Ulster into over confidence as well as being drained by the unbalanced programme (Which is more often to Munster's disadvantage).

The reality was that the defensive qualities of all three teams was remarkably sharp and clinical. This ultimately resulted in Ulster snatching an equaliser only in the 68th minute against Munster and failing to breach the Leinster cover before running out of steam and being expensively outflanked themselves on the break.

Overall, the indications are that there is a rising generation of both defenders and attackers emerging who can serve Ireland promisingly, starting with a renewed challenge for European under-21 honours which, surprisingly, have been elusive.

At more advanced level, Cees Koppelaar is likely to retain established, streetwise figures for the next qualifying stage of the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in March but the advent of a new world series next year will demand the commitment of a deeper pool of players.

The IHU probably will make every effort to enter the world series competition, which is due to get under way next November. The FIH's plans are that, to cut down on costs, it will start on a regional basis.

In Europe, this would embrace four four-nations tournaments, with the winners entering a second phase which would produce one side to compete against the continent's top three automatic qualifiers (Holland, Germany and England).