If Annadale exit the top league it will push the competition further towards Dublin
Next season’s league could become a 10-team all-Ireland competition with eight of those teams from south Dublin
The best mix in terms of keeping hockey strong across the island has always been a couple of Munster teams, C of I and Harlequins, three or four Ulster teams, and three, four or five Leinster teams. Photograph: Getty Images
Let’s state the obvious. Belfast side Annadale have played five matches in the EY Hockey League, have won zero and conceded 27 goals. That’s over five goals a game going in.
Annadale are one of three Ulster sides in the 10-club competition, the other seven coming from Leinster.
Hockey has always gone in cycles, with power shifting from clubs and provinces. Yet the prospect of Annadale falling out of the top league in the country and another Leinster team gaining promotion next season would further orientate the competition heavily towards Dublin, something Irish Hockey would not want to see and probably is not that healthy.
The best mix in terms of keeping the sport strong across the island has always been a couple of Munster teams, C of I and Harlequins, three or four Ulster teams and three, four or five Leinster teams.
As it stands next season could become a 10-team all-Ireland competition with eight of those teams not just from Leinster but south Dublin.
The league is already heavily lopsided towards Leinster, a result, officials say, of the astute investment and coaching structures put into younger players in recent years. There is no doubt that the fundraising success of the Junior Age Group has been eye-watering, and something from which hockey in general could learn.
Although Ulster’s Lisnagarvey, for years a strong and consistent presence at the top of the hockey heap, currently lead the table the next seven teams are from Dublin, with Banbridge in ninth position with one win from five and Annadale below them in 10th place.
How to fix it without artificially altering the structure is another matter. Annadale beating UCD in student HQ at Belfield on Saturday would be a start. But nobody will take bets on that happening.
SATURDAY: EY Hockey League – Pembroke v Banbridge, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; TRR v Glenanne, Grange Road, 3pm; UCD v Annadale, Belfield 3pm; YMCA v Monkstown, Wesley College, 4pm; Lisnagarvy v Corinthians, Comber Road 5.30pm.