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Hockey league to get under way after resolution of umpire row

The first matches will finally be played in the national league after weeks-long standoff

Jonathan Bell of Ireland in action in Stormont. File photograph: INPHO/Presseye/Rowland White

Week three of the EY Hockey League (EYHL) and the first matches will finally be played after a sorry beginning to this year’s competition.

Hockey Ireland and the Irish Hockey Umpires Association have resolved their dispute, at least to the point where umpires will be appointed to this weekend’s scheduled matches.

It comes just in time. Over the next 12 months the men’s national team will be targeting the World Cup in India - for the first time in 27 years - with the women’s team also likely to be involved in the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 15 years. That tournament begins in London next July.

Women’s coach Graham Shaw should find out in October if the team has qualified and there is a very strong chance of that happening. Both Shaw and men’s coach Craig Fulton will also participate in a conference on high-performance sport organised by Sport Ireland Institute and Sport Ireland Coaching that takes place next week.

Raising standards

The general consensus is that the national league has brought up the standards across the country, as evidenced by the recent Olympic and World Cup qualifications and the men’s team breaking into the world top 10 rankings for the first time.

Apart from a bellicose rump in Ulster unhappy with the all-island aspect, the competition is seen as a huge success.

“In the last 12 to 18 months we have seen a lot of new faces joining the Irish squad and I think their transition to international hockey has been made easier having played in the EYHL with competitive club games every week,” said Irish captain Jonathan Bell.

Railway Union are the only Dublin side playing at home this weekend, as they face Banbridge, with Pembroke, Three Rock Rovers, and Monkstown all heading north and Glenanne turning south to play Cork C of I.

Monkstown have the toughest of challenges as they travel to Hillsborough to face last season’s winners of the league and play-offs, Lisnagarvey.